Students and faculty push back against UCSD housing rate hikes

Written by Natalia Toliver

UC San Diego, already located in one of the most expensive cities in San Diego, is increasing its on-campus rent this summer. On average, the rent will increase by 31% for new housing contracts in July. Specific units will see and 85% jump. All graduate students currently living on campus will see an annual 3% increase.

These increases in rent prices are to help pay off the universities $18 million deficit for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The deficit is a result of increase in university housing that was meant to increase availability and shorten the time graduate students needed to wait to receive housing. Prices for a three-bedroom, one bath will go from $1,455 to $2,700 for new residents this summer. A one-bedroom, one-bath will go from $1,227 to $2,109.

 Many graduate students and faculty who live in campus housing are very upset with the increase in rent coming this summer. They have said that the deficit is the fault of the university’s poor financial decision-making.

An associate professor at UCSD, Fernando Domínguez, said the rent spikes are “due to reckless planning and budgeting by the university.” Graduate students and faculty have agreed that the new housing projects were unsustainable from the beginning. The use of excess reserves as a down payment has passed along long-term debt onto students. Domínguez continued, “They’re trying to shift the burden of that responsibility to the graduate students through an immoral increase in rent in the midst of a pandemic.” The new student rent must cover the housing department’s debt and the operating costs of the growing number of campus housing complexes.

 Over 500 students have pledged to withhold their rent until the university concedes. A petition started by UAW2865 to freeze rents has accumulated more than 2,200 signatures of both students and faculty.

Graduate student and member of the UAW2865 student workers union, Alli Carlise, has mentioned that the university is aware of how little student workers are paid, yet they hike up the prices resulting into fewer and fewer people who can afford to stay on campus. UC student workers have been fighting for a cost adjustment for many years. Many graduate students live at or below the poverty line. “People are already struggling so much that even these little, little ways the university is sort of nickel-and-diming people is unbearable,” Carlise said.

Prior, the low rents offered at UCSD is what drew graduate students to the school, now prospective students have turned down admission offers because of the planned rent increase coming. Because of the backlash received, UCSD announced that those admitted in fall 2020 or earlier would be exempt from the new rates, while those admitted for fall 2021 or after would need to pay the new rates.

 To continue to attract students, the university markets that despite the rent hike, the housing will still be 20% below the outside real estate market rate. In addition, the housing department offers students the opportunity to double up in rooms in studios and apartments. Grad students have noted that this is just a cheap way for the university to fulfil its below-market rate claim. It has been mentioned that in a virtual meeting, the housing department did not recommend sharing spaces because they are not large enough.

 As the summer is quickly approaching, UCSD graduate students and faculty will continue to push with efforts to keep the rent prices down. Several departments at UCSD have written to the administration demanding a change of course and to find new ways to fund housing departments.

 Photo via UCSD