Miriam Assayag sat down next to Sydney Dinetz as she typed away on her computer. Dinetz was deep in the process of establishing what location she would call “home” for her junior year of college when Assayag decided to give her some helpful advice.
“I live in Towson Run right now and there are definitely its ups and downs,” Assayag said. “However, I suffer from pretty mild asthma and allergies and, the fact that the vent has not been cleaned, I really don’t enjoy that. So, I will be moving out of Towson Run.”
Housing for Towson University students has become a big decision as the university continues to grow. As students get older, they must make a choice to stay on campus or venture out into the community.
Towson Run and Millennium Hall are the only apartments on Towson’s campus. This brings a lot of competition among students who need to find housing. For students, it is hard to find options that fit all their needs.
“I want to stay on campus because, as an in-state resident, I find it to be much more affordable,” Assayag said. “My parents really appreciate paying one lump sum as opposed to having to pay two monthly mortgages or rents. And it’s just cheaper in general.”
Dinetz uses loans to help pay for her on-campus housing. She does a quick Google search to see if loans exist for off-campus housing. Dinetz is not satisfied with the results.
Pricing is not the only concern for Assayag and Dinetz. Distance is also a factor. Many student like the convenience of rolling out of bed, throwing on sweats and going to class.
“I like being on campus because it means I don’t have to walk,” Assayag said.
“Yeah,” Dinetz said. “It’s closer, even though we still live in West Village.”
“Even though all of my classes are in Stephens, just like you,” Assayag said, “I’m not going to move to that side of campus.”
“I’m not liking that life,” Dinetz said.
Safety is another concern that on-campus housing alleviates. ID swiping and security guards give students a better sense of comfort. This is hard to find off campus.
“I always feel like you always get the police reports about how things happen around Cardiff,” Assayag said.
“I agree,” Dinetz said. “East Burke is where all the crime happens and I know there are apartments over there and I feel a lot more comfortable walking on campus than I would walking off campus.”
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Towson University’s student population has increased from 9,000 full-time undergraduates in 1988 to 22,000 today. This has created issues with parking, class sections and, most importantly, housing.
Towson resident Paul Hartman is the president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. This organization, founded in the 1970s, acts as an umbrella group of 30 community associations where common issues can be addressed. Hartman has been a part of the Towson community since 1988 and joined the Council shortly after.
“I became involved when an old fraternity house across from the administration building evolved into too large of an issue to just deal with,” Hartman said. “It was disturbing my family, especially my daughter.”
Hartman has heard many concerns from Towson residents about students in the community.
“Walk through traffic in the communities, noise issues with people walking late at night, and throwing trash on the yards are just a few,” Hartman said.
This is normal life for a college student. Late nights, bar hopping, and constant foot traffic are traditional in any college environment, especially on campus. The challenge for many students is separating their behavior with their peers from working professionals.
One of those professionals is Towson resident Ed Kilcullen, a past president of the Towson Council. He has experienced several issues with Towson University students in the community.
“It was two o’clock in the morning and I was woken up by students outside being loud,” Kilcullen said. “I saw students kick a mirror off the side of a car and then run around to the other side and kick that mirror off. I called the police, but they couldn’t press charges on anyone because I couldn’t identify the students.”
New projects such as the 101 York Road project would provide housing for over 500 students, but residents are wary of the campus spilling over into the community.
“The project would bring more student housing and would be an extension of TU,” Kilcullen said. “TU needs to provide housing on campus.”
As a college graduate, Kilcullen understands that housing is a concern for these students.
“There is a misperception that people who live in Towson hate the students,” Kilcullen said. “I enjoy having students intern at my office and I enjoy them being in the community. The problem is that the student lifestyle is not compatible with the community lifestyle.”
The challenge for these students is finding the intermediate between these two extremes.
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Payton Tyler scrolls online through listing after listing of apartment options in the Towson area that offer different types of amenities. From pools and pet friendly to included utilities and washers/dryers, Payton can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the different floor plans and pricing.
“Since I’m getting older, it just felt right to move off campus and get an apartment,” Tyler said. “It really is frustrating though having so many options and not knowing what the best will be for you.”
Tyler has been living at the Colony at Kenilworth apartment complex for the past nine months and is now starting to think about where she will live for her senior year. While living in an apartment with two of her friends has been fun, Tyler has had a lot of growing up to do.
“Having to manage your own space really gives you more responsibilities, like paying your rent and cleaning,” Tyler said. “But with that, I don’t have to worry about RA’s and I feel more independent.”
Tyler has had both positive and negative experiences living in her first apartment. As she walks over to the double pane sliding glass doors to the patio connected to her apartment, Tyler remembers the time a man tried to break into her apartment.
“It was really scary,” Tyler said. “We didn’t really know what to do. Luckily, we were all there and handled the situation together.”
While there have been a few bumps in the road during her first year living in an off-campus apartment, Tyler thinks the positives have outweighed the negatives.
“I’m really happy I got to step off the campus and really live in Towson and not just one little section of it,” Tyler said.
Tyler continues apartment hunting online. She wants to stay close to campus, but still have her space away in the community. She plans on talking with her current roommates about their plans.
“I love Towson,” Tyler said. “I’m happy I can be a student on campus but be able to get away and do my own thing away from campus.”
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For students who seek a life off campus, many universities have staff members whose main priority is to assist in the adulthood process of finding someone’s “dream home,” at least until graduation. Joyce Herold, the Coordinator for Off-Campus Student Services, helps with issues that off-campus students may have.
“Our team assists in orienting students with Towson University and the greater Towson community, preparing students for successful transitions, and facilitating continued student success through graduation,” Herold said. “In addition, OCSS offers all students who commute to campus from home or live off campus with support and resource referrals throughout their off-campus housing experience.”
But even with the school’s support, some students are apprehensive about leaving campus. Herold works with students personally to help dispel concerns about crime and pricing.
For some, the idea of leaving on-campus life is unappealing. Jerry Dieringer, the Assistant Vice President of Housing & Residence Life, said that, by fall 2016, more housing will become available with the creation of two new residence halls in the West Village area.
“We are currently in the design phase of two new apartment buildings in West Village that will, combined, house 700 students,” Dieringer said. “Construction will begin later this year, likely in early fall 2014.”
For the 4,944 students that currently live on campus, this plan will offer more upperclassmen options in housing, allowing them to stay on campus longer. According to Dieringer, those students who maintain on-campus status are said to be more involved in campus affairs and utilize multiple resources that will boost their academics.
But the idea of signing-in guests and occasional room checks may seem more like living at home rather than living on one’s own, especially for older students. These sentiments are known by Herold and she addresses them through her work.
“As students’ progress in their college life, and acquire more financial and personal responsibility, they come to relate more with neighbors in the community,” Herold said. “OCSS programming assists in that educational process as well.”
This process of finding housing is a major decision that students must make as their needs continuously change. These are the types of struggles that truly prepare young adults for life in the real world.
* * *
As Assayag returned from her classes, she carried with her not only her backpack, but also an expression that exuded tiredness and a longing to return to her bed. When she saw that Dinetz was hanging out with some friends in the lobby, she made her way over to de-stress.
“So I was thinking about how it would be if I live in Donnybrook today,” Assayag said as she threw her backpack onto the carpet.
“Oh yeah,” Dinetz replied. “After all that talk about staying on-campus, you’re thinking of leaving campus.”
“I was, but it would be inconvenient because it’s farther away,” Assayag said.
In addition to the distance, which was always an issue for Assayag, she listed other reasons that, unlike last time, proved to be a little more supported than what she originally heard from her friends.
Assayag took the time to educate herself on Donnybrook by calling their leasing office. She asked about pricing and the average rate of utilities for residents. She also told Dinetz that having the Towson University Police Department right on campus was an added bonus that you would not receive off campus.
“I have a friend who lives in Donnybrook now who wants to live with me,” Assayag said. “Fortunately, she is willing to move and we have come to the conclusion that Millennium is the place for us.”
Assayag and Dinetz talked more with the rest of the group sitting in the lobby, but Dinetz could not get the thought of her own housing dilemma out of her head. She trusted Assayag’s opinions and wanted some more help with her situation.
“I kinda wish there was a way to live on-campus and really have that independent feeling of having my own place,” Dinetz said. “I think that is what I would want the most.”
Dinetz was referencing some of the on-campus housing policies, such as signing in guests and room inspections. But Assayag reassured her that those were small prices to pay in order to have the convenience of being so close to classes. Assayag then left for dinner with her roommate, leaving Dinetz to reflect.
“Alright,” Dinetz said. “I guess it’s back to the drawing board with my casa for junior year.”