Off-campus housing costs are expected to increase, university housing offers no relief

Students need to brace themselves for higher rental prices, according to a study from USC. Graphic by Hanna Yorke.

Chapman students living off-campus can expect their rents to increase at least 2.5% by 2020, according to a University of Southern California (USC) report. The squeeze is occurring at the same time that new students will be required to live on campus – and be subject to Chapman’s own housing costs – for two years instead of one.

The average monthly rent for in Orange County is expected to rise by $52 to $2,087 next year, according to the USC report.

Students need to prepare themselves for higher off-campus housing costs next year, according to Marshall Toplansky, Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Science, so living in university housing an extra year may spare students from having to face the outside market forces.

“We’re in the midst of the worst affordability crisis for housing in California history,” Toplansky said.

While the surge in housing prices may have slowed, roughly a quarter of the population can afford to buy the median price home in Orange County, Tolansky said. The median home price is about $725,000, according to Zillow. 

This affordability crisis is not limited to low-income houses, according to the USC report. It’s predicted that renters will suffer from increased prices and there won’t be enough units being added to the market.

Increases in monthly rent will also rise the Orange County vacancy rate, which is projected to be 4.56% by 2020. This would give Orange County the highest vacancy rate in all of the Southern California metro markets, the report states.

The rent hikes are occurring against a backdrop of decreasing home prices. Prices in Orange and its neighboring cities, Anaheim and Villa Park, have fallen six percent this year, as a result of inflated housing prices and economic certainty, according to data on CoreLogic.

The lack of affordability is what’s driving down sales, Toplansky said.

The market can be affected by several factors with location being a front runner, said Orange County realtor Nancy Murphy.

“The main thing we’re seeing now is an increase in interest rates, which makes buyers want to wait, especially in an area so heavily populated with students,” Murphy said.

As a result of buying properties at such elevated prices, landlords could have higher costs and will raise rental prices to cover these costs, according to Toplansky.

Students living on campus for an additional year could have an advantage because they will surpass the stress associated with coordinating an off-campus living arrangement, Toplansky said. While there are complaints about the cost of Chapman-provided housing, at least costs are known upfront: Off-campus costs have can also cost more for some students, depending on their rental arrangement.

“At least the university doesn’t have to raise its prices because they own the land,” he said.

Although Toplansky doesn’t foresee Chapman’s on-campus housing prices increasing as a result of the current housing market, the cost of living in the residence halls is not cheap. The least expensive option is a double bedroom in North Morlan Hall, $10,400 for the academic year, according to the 2018-2019 housing rates.

In Chapman’s apartment housing options, rates range from $5,804 apiece for three residents in a Harris Apartment unit to $24,734 for a single bedroom apartment in Glass Hall, according to the 2018-2019 housing rates. Students living in apartments can opt out of the meal plan.

Students can view their housing options with prices on the Chapman housing website, though the prices are subject to change each year. 

The university increased the on-campus living requirement to two years is because there is significant research over the last 30 years linking the residential experience with improved outcomes in higher education, according to Dave Sundby, Director of Davis Community Center. These outcomes include retention, higher GPA, persistence to graduation, graduating in a shorter time and more, he said.

But being at the mercy of Chapman is no better than being at the mercy of the open market, say students who resent being deprived of choice. “I hate the idea of having to live here another year,” said Maggie Kabilafkas, a freshman political science major. “It seems like another way for Chapman to squeeze more money out of me.”

“Having to live on campus for two years doesn’t give students the opportunity to venture out and look for possible cheaper options,” said freshman political science major Giovanna Potestio. Potestio and Kabilafkas are members of the Class of 2022 – which is the first class required to live on campus through their sophomore year.


McKenna Sulick contributed to this report. 

Heavy rainfall floods multiple Chapman buildings this semester, expert says climate change could play a role

Views from Leatherby Libraries show Chapman’s gloomy campus amidst a heavy rain storm. Photo by Zac Nguyen.

Chapman could be getting a taste of the global climate change epidemic, as evidenced by the heavy rainfall this semester, according to an expert.

“With any short-term event, the exact meteorological conditions are the primary cause, but climate change is making heavy rainfall events more likely,” said Dargan Frierson, a climate researcher and Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station, located in Irvine, calculated a total of 6.6 inches of rain in the month of February. Although Chapman’s buildings are built in compliance to the guidelines set forth by the Building Standards Commission, the campus suffered water damages in the Hashinger Science Center basement, women’s locker rooms, the Leatherby Libraries basement, and more.

Despite rumors of flooding on the patios of Keck Center for Science and Engineering, Rick Turner, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management failed to confirm this information. Additionally, several faculty members inside the Keck building claimed to know nothing of flooding on the patios and ground floor.

“Chapman buildings are no more or less prone to flooding than other institutional buildings,” Turner said. “All of our Chapman Facilities are assessed on an annual basis to protect the asset from being susceptible to water intrusion. Every effort is used to reduce and minimize the damages from unknown weather patterns.”

Irvine CIMIS reports for the month of February have totaled 0.2 inches in 2016, 3.4 inches in 2017 and 0.4 inches in 2018. Although Orange County has experienced significantly more rain this year, flooding on campus has been occurring for years, according to Pamela Gibbons, Director of Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. This year’s damages were, however, are more severe than years past, Gibbons said.

Rainfall in Southern California tends to be highly variable, but this year’s rainfall totals were significantly higher than previous years, according to data from collected by CIMIS. Chart by Hanna Yorke and Maggie Mayer.

“The heavy rain events this season in California were ‘atmospheric rivers,’ where a large amount of water vapor was squeezed out within narrow filaments of rain,” Frierson said.

An atmospheric rivers is created when the jet stream intensifies into a “narrow region of strong winds and moisture-laden air,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These events can contribute to up to 50 percent of the annual precipitation on the West Coast, NOAA states.

Heat-trapping gases emitted by human activities will cause a more highly variable climate, Frierson said. “In between heavy rain events, we expect more intense droughts.”

The annual rainfall from this year compared to last year demonstrates this highly variable climate. The annual total of this year to date is 20.2 inches, while last year’s total was only 3.9 inches, according to OC Public Works.

“With any short-term event, the exact meteorological conditions are the primary cause, but climate change is making heavy rainfall events more likely,” Frierson said.

Building regulations from years ago were not drawn up in anticipation of today’s rain dumps, Frierson said. “I’ll encourage anyone concerned with this to start locally, to better understand their own vulnerabilities and how to become more resilient.”

There is no permanent solution to the water damages our campus has been experiencing, said Turner. “Unfortunately, waterproofing materials and solutions all wear out over time, so we will continue to repair and replace them when those materials and solutions have reached their expiration.”

“This time around the entire locker room was flooded. The bathrooms and even the carpet at the front door was wet,” said Pamela Gibbons, director of athletic training and sports medicine. “In Hutton, the only thing that can be done is to place sandbags at the top of the ramp outside the emergency exit door. The water comes down the ramp and the back stairs like a waterfall.”

“Chapman takes the conditions of its facilities very seriously,” said Turner. “We continue to assess those conditions of our facilities with internal and external experts throughout the year.”

Facilities Management could have prevented the flooding in the women’s locker room by placing the sandbags on the ramp before it started raining, Gibbons said.

Although Facilities Management responded quickly to the water damages, women’s sports teams were inconvenienced because their belongings got wet. Classes held in the affected Leatherby classroom had to temporarily relocate.

“Building codes are the responsibility of state and local governments. Chapman is not in a position to change them,” said Turner. “However, Chapman works with its various consultants and engineers on best practices for building design on these matters. We are always looking for new options that meet the local and state jurisdictions with regard to code compliance, and we always monitor code authorities for the latest changes in regulations.”

To ditch or not to ditch: Coachella results in empty Chapman classrooms – but at what cost?

Frequent festival goer and senior psychology major, Jessica Sampson opted out of attending Coachella this year to ensure she would finish strong academically for her final semester at Chapman. Photo courtesy of Jessica Sampson.

Aside from being a financial burden, Coachella puts students at risk of jeopardizing their grades just weeks before the end of the semester.

Coachella, held the weekend of April 12 and the weekend of April 21 this year, has historically prompted many party-minded students to skip classes on the Fridays and sometimes the Thursdays before and Mondays after, forcing epic showdowns between academic and social priorities. While some professors excuse the absences, others find accommodating students who would rather dance in the desert than meet their deadlines unthinkable – or at least annoying. Students who see no reason they can’t do it all claim they compensate by working ahead, making arrangements ahead of time and saving up permitted class absences for Coachella.

Professors agree that Coachella – which drew 250,000 people this year over the course of both weekends – results in emptier classrooms. “I didn’t have any students approach me about going to Coachella, but I did notice a lot of absences,” said Chapman English lecturer Cristina Fucaloro.

The University’s attendance policy leaves restrictions up to each professor, but it recommends that students who miss 20% of the class should fail, according to the 2018-2019 catalog.

Attendance was sparse in the classes taught by English lecturer Mark Hausmann for both Coachella weekends, he said.

One student asked for a slide, which he gave to him. “This student and I made an agreement that they would turn in a kind of journalistic write-up about their experience at Coachella, in exchange,” for attending class, Hausmann said. “I’m hoping to use their experience over the week as a situation for journalistic and reflective writing. This would actually line up with my class super well.”

Hausmann says he is lenient with what he deems excusable absences. He understands the allure of the festival, having attended several times himself, but said when he was a student he prioritized his coursework. Students need to “either fulfill their agreed-upon requirements for the course, plan their unexcused absences accordingly throughout the semester, or just take the consequences,” Hausmann said.

More than four unexcused absences may result in a failing grade in Fucaloro’s English classes. While Fucaloro understands that college students need to have fun, she doesn’t consider attendance at a music festival an “excusable” absence.

“I can understand not making it to class on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. after Coachella, but I teach on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.,” Fucaloro said. Missing class on Tuesday after a day of recovery Monday is inexcusable, she said.

But students easily rationalize trading books and lessons for listening to live music with sweating friends.

“I would miss my classes to go to Coachella any day,” said Ashley Warmenhoven, freshman communications major. “At the end of the day, I will remember my memories at Coachella over learning the preterite tense in Spanish.”

Warmenhoven, who missed two Friday classes, notified her professors of her absences ahead of time, and drove back late on Sunday night to make it to her 8:00 a.m. Spanish test and 9:00 a.m. religion test.

“It’s fine to miss class for Coachella if you are smart about it,” said Mary Morse, sophomore public relations and advertising major. “I tend to overwork myself in school, so it was refreshing to have a weekend dedicated to fun,” Morse said.

Morse said she worked ahead saved up her absences and did homework during her downtime at the festival.

Some professors allow students discretion in deciding how to use allotted absences, rather than defining what rates an “excused” or “unexcused” time off.

“Last spring, three students came up and told me they would be gone for a week because of Coachella,” said John O’Kane, professor of English.

O’Kane encouraged the students to go to the festival because they rarely missed class. “I let students miss four classes without hit on their grades, so if they come regularly then I think it’s good they go to Coachella for the experience,” he said.

Yet, it’s clear that some students overestimate their abilities to balance their academic requirements with their need to party.

Because she rarely misses classes, Emily Nelson, sophomore business administration major, said she and her three roommates worked ahead in their classes to be able to attend the first weekend. Although she had planned to go to class upon her return, Nelson and her friends didn’t get back to Orange until 5 a.m. on Monday. She knew that she would be too exhausted to retain any information in class, so she decided to sleep through her morning classes.

“It’s definitely important to work hard and push yourself academically, but I’ve always felt like the school system in the US has become so consuming that a lot of our youth is wasted,” Nelson said. “It’s okay to miss class every once in a while for something really unique and memorable. I’ll remember my Coachella trip forever, and my teachers have probably already forgotten that I missed a class!”

Senior business major Leron Nehernia chose to forgo Coachella last year because of her heavy workload.

“I always prioritize my grades, and my junior year was too challenging to get away with dancing in the desert for an entire weekend,” Nehemia said.

Now that she has less work and fewer responsibilities, she was able to splurge on a fun-filled weekend without stressing about catching up, she said.

“I wouldn’t be going if it would jeopardize my grades or ability to graduate,” Nehemia said.