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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Save some money: Live with old people

    Since the recent election of Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona’s universities and public schools have faced astronomical budget cuts as a part of an effort to reduce the state’s massive budget deficit, a platform Ducey ran on. This budget cut reflects disturbing trends in higher education: tuition, room and board and auxiliary costs inflating at rates that students, especially from lower income brackets, cannot keep up with.

    Costs must be cut on both ends, and one possible answer might be grandparents.

    Elders often support their grandchildren financially, if they are lucky enough to still have them around, but university students are finding an alternative to asking for money outright — living with them.

    The Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands, allows students to live rent-free in dormitory-style apartments within the retirement home alongside the elderly — on the condition that students are polite and spend at least 30 hours a month with the more seasoned residents.

    Sparked by one student’s interest in escaping poor conditions in university housing, the program is a way to subsidize student housing while providing a service to the elderly.

    According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, social isolation and loneliness have a sharp positive correlation with mortality in the elderly. This residential exchange program could be a simple and preventative measure.

    The study reads, “social relationships are central to human well-being and are critically involved in the maintenance of health.” This concept has been consistently proven in residential contexts for students, with those living on campus for at least one year showing high rates of retention and academic success.

    It should be no surprise then that the same positive effects attributed to social interaction could benefit the elderly, as the study explains “it is a particular problem at older ages, when decreasing economic resources, mobility impairment and the death of contemporaries conspire to limit social contacts.”

    Gea Sijpkes, head of Humanitas, said in an interview with PBS regarding the exchange program that the students’ interactions positively impact retirement communities.

    “The students bring the outside world in,” Sijpkes said. “There is lots of warmth in the contact.”

    At the Cleveland Institute of Music, in a similar program, students are offered a method to cut costs while also providing company to the senior residents of Judson Manor. The students, who play music and spend time with the senior citizens, are part of a program combatting rising tuition and room and board costs within the American university system.

    While both parties cite the warmth Sijpkes spoke of as the greatest benefit of the program, it is also a lucrative measure in reducing housing costs for students — a burden many pay for themselves through loans or scholarships while getting their education.

    While it is unlikely that the almost 7,000 undergraduates living in on-campus housing at the UA could subsidize their expensive (and rising) housing expenses by living rent free with the elderly, innovative and cost cutting measures could and should be explored by the UA and Residence Life.

    With concerns about rising tuition costs and a hands-tied legislature struggling to balance the budget, it makes sense for public universities to increase auxiliary costs like housing.

    “One way to make tuition prices go up more slowly is to make room and board go up more rapidly,” said Sandy Baum, a professor of education for George Washington University and a researcher of higher education finances for the Urban Institute, in an interview with The Hechinger Report.

    This smoke screening isn’t slowing down rising costs for anyone. With room and board costs up 9 percent more than general inflation and a national average of 21 percent tuition increases in the past five years, college is rapidly becoming an industry mandate that students can simply no longer afford.

    With a university education rapidly becoming a mandate rather than the suggestion for success it used to be, the system needs to change if American students are expected to compete globally. If the state legislature and its head — Ducey — are unwilling to preserve the institution designed to make our nation great, we’ll just have to survive until the next election.

    But maybe we could add a “Would you be down for hanging out with old people to save some money?” question to housing applications.

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    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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