Can’t afford an NYU dorm? School to offer ‘Grandma’s spare room’ instead

Via Higher Education Network | The Guardian:

Studying at New York University has become so prohibitively expensive that the historic Manhattan school is introducing a scheme to help students save money by lodging in elderly people’s spare bedrooms.

Andrew Hamilton, NYU’s new president, has approved a pilot scheme to pair up students with low-income older people struggling to make ends meet. The scheme – dubbed “Grandma’s spare room” – may sound like the premise of an intergenerational sitcom but it will begin in fall 2017, and university officials said initial demand had been so strong that it could be extended to hundreds of students and perhaps other schools in New York and other expensive cities across the country.

Hamilton, a noted British chemist and former vice-chancellor of Oxford University, has made tackling the high cost of attending NYU a key priority of his tenure.

“The plain fact is that tuition at NYU places an unacceptable financial strain on too many students,” he said in his inaugural address at the start of the semester. “NYU is not unique in that regard by any means, but we have been among the most conspicuous … [and] we cannot be content with the status quo.”

The intergenerational homestay idea was generated by NYU’s affordability steering committee, which Hamilton introduced as a “taskforce” to “make a difference in the trajectory of college costs at NYU”.

The full average cost [not taking into account scholarships and financial aid] of attending NYU including tuition, fees, room and board is about $66,000 per year – one of the most expensive in the country. Hamilton increased tuition fees by 2.7% this year, less than a typical annual increase of 3.5%-3.9%.

Ellen Schall, the chair of the affordability steering committee, said the cost of attending NYU was higher than other Ivy League schools because of the prohibitive cost of accommodation in New York. “This is a creative way of tackling that issue,” she said. “It occurred to us that there are lots of New York City families whose children have grown up and moved away and they’ve got an extra bedroom and maybe they are struggling financially. We hope this will be a way of helping the needs of two very different populations.”

Schall said she expected that students involved in the scheme would pay annual rent of about $5,000 – half of the cost of a shared room in NYU’s cheapest dorm. She made clear that students would not be required to work for their elderly landlords in return for cheap rent.

“You’re not a nurse, you’re not an aide, you’re not cleaning, you might help out with some technology or something,” she said. “You might make a deal that you would make with any roommate – ‘If you take the trash out, I’ll order us a pizza.’”

‘This is an opportunity to help low- or fixed-income seniors, and help address the wider housing affordability crisis in New York City,’ said Eric Weingartner, who is working with NYU on the scheme. Photograph: Erik M/ Pacific/ Barcroft Images

NYU is working with University Settlement, a not-for-profit group that helps low-income families on the Lower East Side, to bring the project to life. Eric Weingartner, the chief executive of University Settlement, said the plan was to identify apartment buildings near NYU that had a high proportion of older people so that several students could be accommodated in different families’ apartments, but near each other to retain some of the feeling of living in a dorm.

“This is an opportunity to help low- or fixed-income seniors, and help address the wider housing affordability crisis in New York City,” he said. “There are people live in apartments with massive amounts of room no one really lives in, while other people struggle to afford anywhere to live.”

Schall and Weingartner said both student and senior communities were excited about the project and had already approached the organisations to try and sign up to the scheme, which hasn’t launched yet.

However, some students suggested that NYU could use its $3.5bn endowment to cut the costs faced by students. Schall said NYU raised $147m for financial aid in the last academic year, and its endowment per student was much lower than other Ivy League schools.

While many students in New York struggle to pay rent for dorms or rooms in shared houses in neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the city also attracts the children of the world’s billionaires, presidents and oligarchs who live in some of the most expensive property on the planet wile they’re studying.

The daughter of the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev spent $88m on a penthouse at 15 Central Park West, arguably the most grandiose address in the city, as her base while studying at an undisclosed US university. Ekaterina Rybolovlev’s 6,744 sq ft apartment, which was listed for sale earlier this year after she finished her studies, features 10 rooms and a terrace overlooking Central Park.

In the line for coffee in Starbucks on the corner of Washington Square Park, Alexandra Bloshenko said she would definitely apply to live with a grandma. “I can barely afford to study here. I get half of my costs tuition paid for by scholarship, otherwise there is no way in hell I could go to this school,” she said. “I also think it’s important to mix with other generations, we can learn a lot from each other.”

Bloshenko, 22, who is from upstate New York and studying to become a 7th-12th grade biology teacher, said: “I feel there are a lot of kids at NYU who could benefit from some real life experiences. There are so many kids here with tons of money but no experience of the real world.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s