Help is Hard to Find

Its more than difficult to talk about housing

By Sonia Barrientos

I moved to New York from California in August 2014 into the 13th Street Residence Hall. I had arrived, multiple suitcases in hand, ready for my first New York living experience. The room was narrow, but long with a bunk bed and one single bed. The walls were painted white, the tiled floors covered with scuff marks that were illuminated by an overhead light that buzzed constantly (and has not stopped since). The room seemed like an average, maybe subpar dorm room. I had just moved into one of the most expensive dorm rooms in the nation.

At $15, 660 ($18,930 plus a mandatory meal plan of $3,270) per year for a triple room in 2015, the New School’s dorms are as much more expensive than those at other private universities in Manhattan. Although Pace comes close at $15,050 for a freshman triple room, the options between meal plans range from $850 per year to their platinum $4,550 per year, whereas the New School does not offer any choice in meal plans.

A double room at the New School costs $20,100 (including the $3,270 meal plan) per year, coming in at $500 less than a single at NYU’s Third Avenue North building ($20,614 plus a $3,350 annual meal plan). A single at any of the New School’s residence halls costs $23, 820 — more than any of the other dorms in the area.

So why does New School housing cost as much as it does? NYU’s dorms are in the same area and Fordham’s dorms are in the Upper West Side, an arguably more expensive area than Greenwich Village. The New School’s dorms do not discernibly offer any more amenities than any of the other private universities in Manhattan. As a low income student who cannot afford to pay monthly rent for an apartment, I felt it was my duty to find out why I, and others in my position, were up to our eyeballs in debt.

It turns out the answers are extremely hard to find.

My first stop was the Housing Office to try to talk to Alisa Bayes, the director of Residence Life. After I trudged up the narrow stairwell (the elevator seemed to be out of service) and into the quiet third floor office overlooking 5th Avenue, I approached an older looking woman at the front desk, to request an audience with Bayes, or at least anyone at the housing office who could answer my questions. “They’re not in right now,” the woman said fixing her glasses. “I’m not sure when they’ll be back,” she says, shifting her attention back down to her computer. I turned around and trudged back down the narrow stairway.

Returning the next day, (taking the elevator this time) I found a younger woman at the reception desk. “They’re not in right now,” she says “You should try emailing for an appointment.” Dejected and unable to return to try again for the next few days, I headed back to my room and typed out a quick email to the Student Housing Services asking to meet to talk about the price of housing and options for low-income students.

I received no reply for a week before receiving a message to “Please contact Student Financial Services for your questions.”

And so I did. While waiting for their reply, I noticed a flyer for an event for low-income students searching for off-campus housing hosted by the on campus organization Ca$h Ca$h. I was unable to go to their event (because I am a low-income student who must work five to six nights a week), I settled for emailing them to ask about their views on housing and what alternatives they promoted.

I never recieved a response.

Since emailing Financial Services, I have gone to the offices several times, each visit as equally unsuccessful as the last. Finding information for not only housing, but help for low-income students was starting to seem like an impossible mission and maybe it is. As a student who must work nights, it is difficult to try to track down anyone in the administration who could (or even wanted to) tell me why housing is so expensive. While I would love to park myself in the waiting room of the Housing or Financial offices until someone finds the time to talk to me, that is simply not feasible. Maybe I am the only one who has this much difficulty trying to interact with New School faculty (after all they must be busy with the Nevv School’s rebranding), but the fact that it is so hard to just talk to someone from the departments who should be providing assistance speaks for the accessibility of the school itself.