The Yale College Dean’s Office remains concerned about the number of students living off campus, even as off-campus housing rates dipped this year after a roughly decade-long trend of an increasing number of students living outside the residential college system.
“The residential college system is at the heart of a Yale College education, giving students the opportunity to learn from each other, outside the classroom, through frequent, spontaneous encounters,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News. “I would like for more upper-level students to feel that living on campus is the best way to spend all four years at Yale … I have made this matter a high priority, and I am working with the heads of college to make sure that living in our colleges is an appealing option.”
First years and sophomores are required to live on campus, except in extenuating circumstances judged on a case-by-case basis. This year, 26.2 percent of juniors and 39.8 percent of seniors chose to live off campus, a slight dip from last year when a record 17.2 percent of all students — 28 percent of juniors and 41.5 percent of seniors — opted to live outside of their residential college dorms.
Students interviewed by the News cited a number of reasons for moving off-campus, including the opportunity to live with friends from other colleges, cook for themselves and save money.
“My friends are scattered throughout Yale, not just in Davenport,” said Riley Tillitt ’19. “While some people are best friends with their suitemates, that was never me.”
He added that moving off campus did not alienate him from his on-campus friends.
Min Kwon ’18, who also lives off campus, told the News that he sometimes has to make an effort to stay connected with friends on campus but still participates in activities similar to those he would enjoy when he was on campus, from baking to decorating Christmas trees.
In response to high off-campus housing rates, the University has begun to consider on-campus solutions, such as mixed-college housing.
“According to a YCC report, many students move off campus because they want to live with friends in other colleges,” Chun explained. “One way to accommodate them is to consider areas of mixed-college housing, in which students from different colleges can live together while keeping their original college affiliation. I have asked the Council of Heads of College and YCC to consider the feasibility of a policy like this.”
Jenny Xiao ’19 told the News that while the ability to live with friends from other colleges is definitely a factor for some people, the college transfer process is easy enough that most students probably live off campus for other reasons.
If they find summer subletters, Xiao said, she and her housemate pay the same price they would if they were living on campus for a space that is twice as large as a residential college dorm and equipped with a kitchen. Xiao added that the only downside of living off-campus is having to furnish rooms on a personal budget.
“Compared to most other Ivy League schools, the price of living off campus in New Haven is very affordable,” Tillitt explained. “I’m able to save money by living in an apartment. That wouldn’t be true in New York City or Boston.”
Tillitt said that no longer paying for the Yale meal plan has allowed him to eat out more and cook with friends. He added that even if he eats out at restaurants like Junzi or Pad Thai, he ends up paying less than he did for the Yale mean plan, which cost him around $30 a day.
Other students living off campus said they enjoy being able to take greater control of their diet.
“The most pertinent benefit I got from moving off campus was the ability to cook for myself,” Kwon said. “I love cooking Korean food at my house without having to go through the procedure of reserving kitchens.”
Maxine Vainio ’19 said that she chose to live off campus because she loves to cook and was not able to do so in a college dorm.
And Chloe Prendergrast ’20, who currently lives on campus, said the “only reason” she would move off campus is because of the limited vegan and vegetarian options in Yale dining halls. She explained that while the dining halls do a good job given the responsibility they shoulder, she ultimately finds herself “eating the same salad for almost nine meals a week” or surviving on vegan dishes that are meant as sides.
“Cooking vegan food is a lot cheaper than the meal plan,” Prendergast said. “Right now, I’m paying for a lot of meat and dairy products I don’t eat. That being said, the dining halls are also a super social space for me and have a reliable source of food, so I will be weighing all of these things together [when deciding whether I should live off campus].”
Chun acknowledged that at least 10 percent of upper-level students will always want to live off campus for reasons Yale cannot address, such as wanting to cook on a regular basis. But, Chun said, he hopes Yale is able to mitigate other factors prompting students to consider off-campus living.
Still, some students expressed a loss of interest in the spirit of the residential college system itself as a leading cause of living off campus. Maya Jenkins ’18 said that off-campus living becomes more attractive to students as they mature, become more purposeful about the friends they choose and care less about keeping ties with their colleges.
The administration maintains that there is much to be gained from the residential college system.
“There will always be students who want to live independently,” Chun said. “To them I can promise decades of that lifestyle after graduation. You only get four years to live at Yale.”
The residential college system was established in 1933.
Britton O’Daly | email@example.com
Correction, Oct. 31: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Riley Tillitt ’19. The story has been updated to reflect the change.