Thursday, June 28, 2007

Student Family Housing - Problem & Solution

Student family housing at UC Berkeley has become so expensive that many student families can no longer afford to pay rent.
  • What has the University promised to do about it in the past?
  • Is the University living up to its promises?
  • Why should past, current, and prospective student families be outraged?
Watch the video (or for those short on time, skip to the last 5 minutes) and find out.

We are sending this documentary, as well as the address to this blog, to the Chancellor, the Regents, UC Berkeley campus organizations, and the media. Write a comment to tell them all your thoughts on the situation.


Jenn Morazes said...

Hi, my name is Jenn Morazes and I am one of the people interviewed for this video. I just wanted to let folks know that the $25,000 Ive compiled in debt is for two years of my Berkeley PhD program... this does not include my previous educational debt of $25,000 which is from my undergraduate and Masters degree ($50,000+ to date). My loans are all for living expenses. Im on track to graduate upwards of $75,000 in debt for my higher education. As a first generation college student, this is a distressing reality for me. I'd love to hear other stories of debt and perseverance! Between us, my significant other and work work 5 jobs currently, and we still borrow borrow borrow!

Richard said...

I work with Jenn and another resident of the UC Village, who has a newborn baby and needs to move to a higher rent apartment while finishing her dissertation. According to the Chancellor, about 7000 students are Berkeley come from low income families. Where does the university expect these students to live, especially those seeking graduate degrees?

Bryn St.Clair said...

Beautiful job on the documentary.

cchrissyy said...


Sabina Garcia said...

My name is Sabina Garcia and I am an undergraduate resident of UC Village. I have a working spouse, however we still struggle to make ends meet. In fact, our financial aid eligibility is restricted by his income so we are in a position where we make too much to get many forms of assistance, but not enough to pay our rent. Each year this gap gets larger. Sadly, sometimes I feel that it would make more sense for my spouse to be unemployed so that we were eligible for more grants to pay our expenses. This is just plain wrong. Our family is invested in this educational process as a means of improving life chances for our son, however the financial pressure has been incredibly detrimental for our health, our sanity, and the sanctity of our home. I love living in the village because of the sense of community; unfortunately we are rapidly being priced out. I know that there are many factors to consider and criteria that perhaps average undergraduates like myself are unaware of, however I also now that there are thousands of people, just like me, who have the potential to succeed here, but who will automatically exclude themselves from considering the possibility of attending Cal because they can't afford to live here. This is unacceptable and completely opposed to the lessons that are instilled in us in our classrooms. How can we profess aims for social justice in class and actively exclude larger and larger portions of otherwise eligible students by continuing to increase rents?

Anonymous said...

Goodbye Section A. You'll be missed.

Anonymous said...

I am the wife a UC Berkeley student. We currently live outside of student housing because it was completely unfordable.
In the last year, I have watched my husband have to drop below enrollment requirements and risk being dropped from the university altogether due to stress. Stress mainly from trying to figure out ways to afford to continue to live in the area and attend UCB. I sympathize with the gentleman in the video who describes sleepless nights. To whom should we send the therapy bills?
Thank you for this video. It definitely speaks for us and our experience.

Anonymous said...

When my husband and I received notice that our Section B apartment was going to be torn down before the dilapidated remnants of Section A the subtext was clear -- it would be the end of affordable housing for UCB families. Without that low rent I would never have been able to return to school, not would I have been able to secure the job which has now helped lift my family above the poverty line for good.

This is not just a disservice that UCB is handing to students, this is a disservice to our children and our society.

Blaine said...

Thanks for making this video. My name is Blaine, a doctoral student, and my family has been chasing the diminishing supply of cheap Cal housing for several years now. We started out in East Village, and quickly blew through our savings and started going into debt. I was spending all my time working various (under the table) jobs trying to make rent, and almost no time doing things like publishing papers. We then moved into Section A (we had to move during the Christmas break, as I was preparing my dissertation prospectus -- and I definitely spent less time preparing because of it). Of course, now Section A is coming down, and we were "fortunate" to get a place at Smyth Fernwald, which is "only $1,000" per month -- leaving me a grand total of about $500 out of my stipend or GSI salary to buy insurance, groceries, clothes for two kids...

I came here from Oxford, UK -- another state university, but one where rents are heavily subsidized. Back then, Section B was still around, and I just assumed Cal would continue to provide affordable housing, like I assumed all good universities did. Honestly, if I would have known how much of my time I would have to spend worrying about making rent, I would not have come to Berkeley -- I would have gone to Stanford, where I was also admitted, and where rents are still about half the cost that they are here. I love Cal, but that's something I mention to any prospective grad student -- and I'm certain that we've lost out on some good ones because they checked and saw that their finances would be VASTLY better elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I completely empathize with the stress issue. I have health conditions which are definately affected by working (and worrying) so much. Im also trying to lift my family further than my parents, and it sometimes appears impossible as we are always charged more for housing.

Anonymous said...

My mom is a single parent, and although she makes less than 30,000 a year, she is sending me money to pay my rent in UC village. Its uncomfortable to say this, that as a PhD student, shes still helping me because of the high rents.

UC Village Spouse said...

As a spouse of a student, I literally have to work two jobs to live here, and we are still behind. The University also needs to be paying its students a living wage - either provide money to rent its housing, or ease up on the rent. According to the City of Berkeley's guidelines, a living wage is 13.73 an hour without benefits, and many University employees -- including students -- do not even earn this amount.

Andrei said...

My name is Andrei Spacov, I have not participated in the video, but I have been a resident at the UC East Village for three years now and completeley subscribe to the VRA demands.
When I came here I use to pay little more than $1,300 a month for my rent and, as of July 2008 I will be paying more than $1,500 for a two-bedroom townhouse. This was not at all part of my financial plan, and I calculate that I will need at least $10,000 more than I was expecting for rent payments during my whole program than I was expecting when I accepted UC Berkeley's offer for a PhD program. Talk about pleasant surprises.....

Paulina Andres said...

We've been 5 years living in UC Village having a wonderful experience (socially, academically, familiar) but at the same time a very hard one, economically. We never thought it was going to be this hard. Being an international family it was very hard to find housing outside UC Village. Nobody wanted to rent to us (no credit story, no bank story, no renting story).. we had no other option than UV Village. The rent has been going higher and higher, no affordable options. Also, as many other international families if your Student Visa is an "F" one... your spouse is NOT ALLOWED to work in the US. How can you pay rent? Please!!!! Chancellor, the Regents, UC Berkeley campus organizations, and the media, just consider yourself being an alien and having this situation for yourself and your family. Thanks God there are other organizations that have helped us: Medical, WIC program, Head Start Program, Alameda County Plan for the Care of Indigent. Where are you UC Berkeley?

Dun Wang said...

The Wikipedia has an entry on the UC Village that is too slipshod. I wish someone who is good in English will revise it, showing the real stakes. Thank you in advance to you, the English native speakers!

Anonymous said...

I think this documentary is a great idea, and was well done, but what entitles anyone to low-rent student housing? Just because there's a precedent doesn't mean it will stay that way forever. I live in Arizona, and every single one of my friends graduated from their UNDERGRAD programs with more than fifty thousand in student loans - not to mention credit card debt. And one of my friends just finished her Masters in Education and already has almost ninety thousand in student debt - and she's going to be making 32K a year as a teacher. And me? I had to live with my parents and drive an hour each way for my first two years at a community college because I simply couldn't afford to go to a University - and that was with a scholarship!

Affordable student housing is a wonderful idea, but it's not an entitlement, especially in places like California where rents are already high, and in places going through gentrification. As sad and tragic as it may be, it is completely normal for old buildings to be torn down to build new, better, more expensive ones. That is the nature of gentrification, and when it happens, the old residents can't live there anymore. It happens in every city when the old parts become trendy again, because everyone wants to live there. It all boils down to supply and demand.

I do hope something is done for you guys (and students everywhere), but I also think the entreaty may be more effective if students realized what a privilege - not a right - they have been enjoying until now. And what's wrong with going to the public sector to find housing? It's what students do all over the country. And there are scores of private colleges with higher tuition and no housing whatsoever.

So while I certainly sympathize with what is happening there, I think a little perspective and appreciation might also go a long way in gaining favor with those in charge. No one wants to be gracious to people who feel entitled. I encourage you to show school leaders what you can do to facilitate the process - not just demanding change, but working together with them for change and also being a part of the long-term solution with commitments of your own. It's not the school's responsibility to finance, build, and foster a community - it's the responsibility of those who make up the community.

I think this problem is much bigger than Berkeley - I think education and housing prices are outrageous everywhere, and then compensation after the degrees are earned is lacking. I do think you're on the right track, and I hope this sends a signal to other universities and colleges as well. Good luck.

Bean Gardener said...

The post from the Arizona resident brings up some points worth discussing. It is true that no one is entitled to an education devoid of personal sacrifice. The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in recent decades, to the point that two thirds of college graduates have educational debt, the average of which is tens of thousands of dollars.

The important point to keep in mind in UC Berkeley's instance, however, is that the University made plans to help the situation, formed committees to make recommendations about how to fix it, and had policies in place. In essence, the University basically made promises about how land around student family housing was going to be used to help subsidize rent. When the opportunity came, though, UC Berkeley changed its mind and decided to put the money into other projects.

I think the point of the video is two-fold: 1) the cost of housing is so high at UCB that it deserves attention of higher administration, otherwise only the wealthy will be able to study there; and 2) in the past, UCB found a partial solution to this problem and promised to implement it...but later broke those promises.

No one is entitled to a free PhD. But neither is UC Berkeley entitled to break its promises to its student population. Someone must remind them of that...and those someones have to be us.

Barbara Henry said...

I thank that VRA so much for this documentary. It showcases that the frequent rent increases in the University Village present a major problem to all residents, not just a selected few. It is a problem that threatens the very reason that we are all even here, it threatens our ability to earn our degrees while providing for our families.

I am a single mother of one and just watching the documentary made me reflect on how the rent increases have affected my career here at UC Berkeley. Listening to Katherine's experience as a mother of three brought me to tears. I too have been pushed into the work field to make ends meet for my daughter and I. I too am receiving benefits from the county, which in no way promote higher education or moving up and beyond the poverty line. I too an under extreme stress due to not knowing how I will work enough hours at my part time job to earn enough income to help with bills, pay back rent and future rent and still be a successful mother and student.

I agree with Dr. Rush Woods when she speaks about single families being moved out. I love being a Village resident, but I have to wonder how much longer I can stay here and I have to also wonder where my daughter and I would go after being in the Village for 3 years. I have to take out loans each semester to pay rent and often even with loans rent is still not paid. I currently have a registration block for the upcoming semester because of a large amount of back rent. I was also in the same situation last semester and I had to get things worked out.

As Katherine stated, it is impossible to care for your children as the sole provider, while trying to work crazy hours to earn income to pay the rent and also devote time to academics as well. It is impossible, but we are being forced to try to figure out a way to do the impossible. I am always worried and stressed over finances and I working 16 hours a week with little time to study and little time to devote to my child contributes heavily to my depressive disorder.

I really do hope that the University can resolve this rent issue soon because it is really taking a toll on every student who has to support a family with limited income and it takes an even greater toll on those of us who are single parent, single income families.

Anonymous said...

We are the community taking responsibility - The folks most affected are far from entitled - single parents, first gen college students, international students, low income students . . . debt is rampant and precedents are needed to address this here and other places . . . the claim in this society is if you work hard, get a good education, things can change, but if anyone - undergrad, grad - is being forced to compromise their futures through unmanageable debt, the barriers remain

Hard work and sacrifice is a part of any goal, yet almost triple figure debt for students? We all can be part of the solutions we desire, and it has to begin somewhere, heres one place it can

annie said...

I am a single parent of two and an undergraduate. Outreach workers came to my community college and told me I could come to UC Berkeley, so I moved to the village with my kids. Two weeks after moving in I received a flyer informing me that section B where I lived was slated for demolition the following year.Now that all affordable family housing has gone, I live in an apartment inWest village which costs $1500 per month. I am currently fighting eviction proceedings that the university started against me due to non-payment of rent. Why recruit low-income students when there is nowhere for them to live if they choose to come to UC Berkeley? The university should stop being hypocritical and admit that it is an elite school for the priveliged who can afford to come here.

Justin said...

Thank you for your informative video; the considerable effort expended reflects the problem severity.

My wife and I moved into the village in 2003 from a beautiful in-law unit in the El Cerrito Hills. The East Village was more expensive, even then, but it was a friendlier environment for children (i.e. larger, playmates and playgrounds, no pool and no Jacuzzi at our front door). We were lucky; I had come from a successful career and as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. Our savings and the fellowship were enough to make ends meet. The increase in rent was offset by gains for our soon to arrive first son.

But times have changed. We have a second son. My children are too young for my wife work. The generous NSF funding has expired; I now rely on being a departmental Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for $21,000 a year, which does not increase with the cost of living. The savings have dwindled. The rent has increased to $1640 monthly. After paying our rent, we have just $110 remaining from my GSI stipend monthly for our family of four to eat, pay doctors, taxes and the like.

Of course, this is not possible. As an aspiring academic, who is already bit older than my peers, I am hesitant to take on the burden of loans, but again we are lucky. I have marketable skills from my “former” career, which I use under-the-table. This is explicitly against the policies of my department, but until recently I have kept it to myself. With the ever-increasing rent (about 7% annually), though, this double-life has become a greater distraction to my research.

I recently asked if it was possible to be removed from the department’s funding so that I can devote that time to my private employment (which pays at a rate an order of magnitude higher than GSIing) to allow more time for research. I was told that outside employment could result in my expulsion. The following is an excerpt from the faculty member assigning GSI’s email: “GSIing is… important to the teaching activities of ths (sic) school. And I **do not want** to get into myriad negotiations.” I see his point, and for the moment the department is willing to turn a blind eye to how I pay my bills as long as I continue to teach (and grade) my full quota, but it is interesting to note another way exorbitant rents can reduce the quality of research and teaching at the university.

If those in a position to alleviate the problem should read this, please note that housing grants for needy families will not help students like us. Though my private employment is not reported to my department, it is to the IRS (i.e. I pay full taxes on it). Already this documentation disqualifies us from receiving public aid, including subsidized health insurance for my wife (my children still do) and student loans. Since income verification always looks at history, not projection, I cannot quit my under-the-table job until after my expenses fall. Making rents affordable for all students will help us.

We will get by okay, but I did not enroll in an elite PhD program to grade papers and secretly continue my old career; I came to make a new research career for myself and use my talents for society. Affordable housing would make that much easier.

Helene Bilis said...

I am a graduate student in the French dept. I have asked my mother who is a widow in N.J to move to C.A to live with my husband and two kids to help cover rent. Of course, I know that a mother-in-law living permanently in my household means a strain on my mariage, but we have no other way of making our rent.
Before deciding to come to UCB I had hesitated for a long time between here and Columbia. The Village was a main reason for my descision to come. I truly believed a public university with the diversity of population, the history and the means of UCB would be committed to family-student housing. I feel that the University is making a very grieve miscalculation which will result in the loss of talented students; a decision which ultimately affects the entire UCB student population. The choice is to either think in terms of profit, or about quality of education, responsibility and respect for students.

idp said...

Dear all! I just want to support this initiative. I am a resident in the University Village since 2006, and despite for now our economical situation is good, I have seen other students asking for loans or illegally subletting rooms to meet ends. I think this video is a good way to show to the world how the intellectual future of the USA is mistreated by market interests. Thank you so much.

Jevan said...

I have been living in the Village since 2002, and moved to the East Village in 2004 in anticipation of the now long-delayed demolition of Section A. Living in the tiny and spartan Section A demonstrated to me just how little in terms of creature comfort students and their families need. This was communicated to the University planners, and ignored. Now, my rent exceeds my stipend, and my wife does not work.

Every modern tenement built in the Village is large and expensive, in a way that was entirely avoidable through design and planning. The land on San Pablo will now be used to generate money for the University directly, further blatantly ignoring the interests of students. Finally, when recently questioned on the subject, the housing administrators admitted no plan to match rent to university stipend, and no plan to now or ever outpace the rent of other area housing. In other words, this entire project is a capital venture, and has nothing to do with public interest.

I do not consider myself an activist, but incompetent administration of public resources against the public interest is intolerable. The housing administration has 30 positions unfilled (some for over a year), some designed explicitly to fundraise for projects like the Village. Why are these vacant? Incompetence. If you ask how the current situation came about, the answer given is analogous to the now infamous "you go to war with the army you have" comment. Nonsense- humans plan before they act. We can only assume that the housing administration (and possibly trustees) either cannot plan to meet stated goals (incompetent), or are simply acting against the interests of the public without a viable check on their authority.

New Village Resident said...

Thanks all for the great video. We recently moved in and already the increasing rent is discouraging. If my wife didn't work it would be unaffordable. With our first child on the way, our financial stress will only get worse.

I think it's reasonable to assume the university administration is mostly full of intelligent well-wishing people, but then WHY CAN"T THE UNIVERSITY UNDERSTAND THESE NEEDS?

I would very much like to see a justification that supposedly shows a greater marginal benefit to using the San Pablo money elsewere.

jryan86 said...

This is a fantastic website--thank you so much for expressing the current frustrations and concerns of hundreds of UC Village residents. I have written an article over on the blog Berkeley Bubble and linked to this blog.

As a current resident of UC Village of more than 2 years, I am currently struggling to make the rent and make ends meet. I have noticed many of my neighbors leaving the village as of late, forced to uproot their families and move out because they cannot afford the unconscionably high rents here--indeed, the East Village is beginning to feel a bit like a ghost town.

The University must fulfill its commitment as a provider of subsidized, affordable housing for graduate student families. The University Village was intended to make it affordable for student families to live in the Berkeley area, and not to be high-priced luxury resort.

I pray that Chancellor Birgeneau reads these comments and takes immediate action to lower rents at the UC Village.

correaa aatt berkeley aatt edu said...

Hi, I am an international graduate student with spouse and one baby. I spend 80% of my GSI salary in rent at the West Village. For us moving from Section B to the West Village was a terrible change in our quality of life, specially after last rent increases. Each increase of rent is one less bag of groceries that we can buy.

Living in Section B was just a perfect student life that is not longer available.

In fact, we will be moving far away from the campus because my wife has to work and she only found a job in San Mateo and if we have to stay here without her income we could not afford the rent. It is a pitty and we will miss leaving in Albany.

She is allowed to work because of my J1 visa but I don't know how families with F1 are going to make it.

My prediction is: there will be no more international students in the Village, unless they do Bussines or other careers that use to take loans.

Will I recommend fellows to come to Berkeley? Don't boder, there are other universities that being as prestigious will offer five years of DECENT student life. It is a shame.

Anonymous said...

We recently moved to the West Village from Section A. When we received notice that an apartment was opening up (and that we would lose it if we did not act immediately) we signed the lease 5/14/07 wich stipulated rent at $1295.

Two days later all the residents received a notice saying the rents would be increased, in this case to $1360.

At the time of signing we were not given any indication or notice of this impending increase and the lease carries no clause that rent will be increased at the discretion of UCB.

It seems to me that this is a breach of contract by UCB? I cannot imagine any landlord in any residential area could get away with such an action.

I have been told that rents (and class fees) typically are increased in June each year. If this is the case, why were we not informed at the time of signing the lease agreement?

The ensuing difficulties that have arisen from moving from a rent of $646 at Section A to $1360 in the West Village are pointless to enumerate as it seems the administration acts with impunity and rapacity (much like the current White House Administration).

In spite of the excellence of UCB tuition and the cachet a UCB degree carries, I have come to regard the administration as just another vehicle that deprives the average person and advances the elite.

Anonymous said...

Kudos on this wonderful documentary!

UC Berkeley presents itself as cutting edge in the area of family friendly policies. Shouldn't affordable housing be a part of a comprehensive family-friendly plan?

Anonymous said...

One argument why the University is not subsidizing family housing we got to hear during the last VRA meeting was that it would not be fair that in that case basically students living e.g. in Downtown Berkeley would "subsidize" housing for families in the UC Village. At the same time big part of our annual rent increase is due to dept services for the new buildings. So it seems to be fair that students currently living in the village are subsidizing housing for students that will live there in say 20 years from now. Isn't that equivalent to the case of a Berkeley Downtown Student "subsidizing" the UC Village? Can anyone of the UC officials explain the logical reasoning behind this to me? Thanks!

Katherine Reyes said...

Hello, I am Katherine and I spoke briefly in the video. Since doing the video, I conducted some research on other universities around the nation and was--well, not so surprised--to find that most student-family housing costs are relatively lower than what we pay over at the East Village. UC Santa Barbara's highest family housing rent is just a bit over 900 dollars a month and this is despite the fact that Santa Barbara’s market value is considerably higher than Berkeley’s (think Beverly Hills in contrast to El Cerrito). UC Santa Cruz still has affordable housing, and even UCLA has lower housing costs for its student families than UCB.

I understand the cost of construction in the village has to be offset by someone, but this is where the promise of UCB administration comes in; they are supposed to offset the ridiculously high cost of rent with the proceedings of the sale of Section A’s land. Such a plan of action would have only made sense; family housing is supposed to be occupied by penniless scholars, not working lawyers, doctors, movie stars, or lethargic billionaires, or exclusively to students from wealthy backgrounds.

If UCB’s housing administration is going to keep jacking up prices, the least they could do is find ways to offset the cost of living…with some sort of arrangement with the financial aid office and/or the county social services agency so that those of us living in the slums can rise above it and set the tune for our own children. It is shameful and absurd for Barbara Henry to be worrying about an eviction when she should be focusing on her studies and taking care of her child. It is demoralizing for breadwinning students to worry day and night about how they are going to pay their rent, especially international students who are not even allowed to work. In the long run, UCB is sending the message that people who are traditionally from low-income backgrounds—the disabled, minorities, foreign-born—are not accepted and not welcome. So much for diversity. I can only pray that my fellow student-parent friends are able to hang in there at least until they can get their degrees.

Anonymous said...

I am the working spouse of a UC Berkeley graduate student. While my job as a consultant is well paying and I am able to do it from home, we realize we are in a very lucky position.

Several of my husband's classmates who have families are not able to be our neighbors in the village because of the high cost of rent.

The documentary is right on the money in every way - the solution is not a new one - just a matter of following through on existing policies and commitments to the student families that make our time in this community an enriching for everyone involved.

Angela said...

I am a single mother with 2 children. I'm a full-time undergraduate student, pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology in order to provide a better life for my girls. I previously lived in section B housing & now live in the East Village. At this point in time I must take out the maximum amount of loans that I am allowed in order to pay for rent & living expenses. I have both subsidized and unsubsidized loans of around $30,000.00 thus far. I am not able to work because it would reduce my child support of $900 a month, and the cost of a babysitter would be about equal to what I would earn working. In addition, I can barely manage my school work and taking care of the kids as it is. My stress level would decrease significantly without the added burden of paying such high rent, which just increased as of July.

Zachary said...

I am a graduate student pursuing an economics PhD. In my field I can expect a decent income to help repay my student loans, but students in other fields and those who wish to work in the non-profit sector (like my wife) may have considerable difficulty paying off these loans. Can the University remain competitive in all fields if some of the best students cannot afford to live and raise families here? Does our public university exist to educate only financiers and bankers or is it committed to scholarship in all fields-- even those that are not as lucrative?

Amy said...

As a working-mother, wife of a current student, and a recent UC Berkeley grad, my husband and I have made choices that have brought us immense satisfaction and joy (a son,an advanced degree, hope for a meaningful career and future) and daunting burdens ($90,000 in student debt, jointly). Getting pregnant my last year of grad school was one such choice. Choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom my baby's 1st year and taking out additional loans to do so was another choice. Choosing to go back to work (for a non-profit), incurring $850/month in childcare costs in the process, was a more recent choice.

The point is, being a student family with children is financially challenging and some could argue that it would have been better to wait. To not try to juggle the two. TO "choose" our education and careers over a family. But is that the message the University wants to send? Does one have to trade off a family for the pursuit of higher education? The message the University is sending, by making it simply unaffordable for student families, is a resounding, "No, you are not welcome."

But I want to move beyond chronicling our hardships as student families, because for many of us this was a choice we made. What I want to know is, what needs to be done to get the Financial Aid department, those determining GSR/I salaries and the housing department together and communicating. As it stands my husbands GSR salary barely covers rent. My modest income has to cover the rest, healthy food, transportation to and from work, childcare and clothing. There is something seriously wrong when rent is approaching 100% of ones income (if not more) and there are people at the University who can change that if they are willing.

Jennifer said...

This coordination between departments is a very important point. Ive just been on the phone with summer sessions, housing, and billing the last 3 hours because the summer sessions are not dispersing our GSI payments until the 16th, one day after rent is due...I lose a lot of time on things like this, and my boyfirend also gets frustrated because three times in the past six months his check hasnt been correct and he has to wait then another one or two weeks for another check from UCB to get the right payment... so even if we do have money coming, its not coming in a way convenient to pay on time.

I also think the comparisons between family housing in other areas is a valuable point. Berkeley, please heed this!

In addition, Mary Ann Mason (who won the Berkeley citation) did research which shows that women wanting to enter acadamia actually have less choices about when they have children, and actually its even LESS possible after being a grad student... so less afforable housing cuts down the ability to have kids, for women pursuing academic posts, because it gets harder and harder the longer one waits...

I also empathize with the issue of parents sending money to make ends meet - my mom doesnt have extra money, but shes borrowing some money to help. Its frustrating...

Sonny said...

This is a total nonsense. If you're an international graduate student and living on one of "university" fellowships, you basically cannot live in "university" housing. Dean's Normative Time Fellowship, for example, pays you around $1,500 per month for "living expenses." As the fellowship pays you, you are not allowed to have additional jobs. As you're paying like $1,400 per month just for rent, you are living with "$100" for a whole month! For me, when I lived in the Section B apartment, I could live on university fellowships, even saving some money. But since I've moved in the East Village apartment, all things have been degraded. Most of all, my family's life is exposed to danger due to the unaffordability of reliable medical insurance. The University should do something to rectify this self-contradictory situation. Or, remove the word "student" from "student housing" or "university" from "University Village" in all university publications and websites.

Dun Wang said...

Someone has already updated the Wikipedia entry "UC Village," incorporating the current contentions of "affordable student family housing." Here is the Wikipedia link:

Thank you, the anonymous updater!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just recently moved in the west village apt.
I was amazed how cosly it is living here,but i thought because we are in berkeley. After I watch the video, I don't feel like living here now. My husband and I are planning to get loan to help us pay our living expenses, but now
I can see my family getting into mess because of financial debt.
I don't want us to be in debt for thousands of dollars.
Where is the affordable housing? Before I did not know what is happening here, I looked up to the university because they have the heart of helping specially the needy people who wsnts to succeed in life but now is GONE! or maybe it didn't happen anyway

Anonymous said...

My wife and I lived in Section A and were lucky enough to get a transfer to Smyth Fernwald (only because we put in for a transfer far in advance). We are thankful for the opportunity we had to have affordable housing, and are saddened that this opportunity seems to be slipping away.

One point is worth making though. Some of the name calling and blaming going on here is a bit out of line. No one goes to work for a public university out of greed, nor are they deliberately trying to take anything away from us. They are administrators trying to make an organization work as it is being systematically defunded by the state. I would argue that the San Pablo money should subsudize village rents, but I realize that we are only one constituency. The 20% budget cuts since I have been here, combined with a 15% increase in undergraduate enrollment, have started to take a toll on the quality of education and are a disaster in the making. No doubt this general budget crisis is behind the changing plans for the San Pablo funds.

Heather said...

In just the first year that my husband and I lived at UC Village, we incurred a debt of $12,000. As a non-resident undergraduate, his tuition and fees as well as our UC Village rent amounted to monthly university bills that were $600 more than my entire monthly salary as a local elementary-school teacher. In other words, after paying just our UC Berkeley ("CARS") bill each month, we were already $600 short and still hadn't even paid our telephone, transportation, grocery, and other living expenses (including my husband's books and study supplies as well as my own student loans).

Without a private loan of $12,000 ($7,200 of which went straight to paying the UC Regents, leaving us to live off of about $400 a month), without living extremely frugally (to a point that led us both to physical and emotional strain), and without taking up to six odd jobs on the side, my husband would not have been able to complete his B.A. at UC Berkeley. What does that say about the accessibility of public higher education in California and the entire U.S.?

Today, with my husband's graduate fellowship and my teaching salary, he is continuing his studies towards a PhD at Berkeley (though I can't say that I feel very fond of this university after all that we've been through here). While we can now afford to pay our rent at UC Village, we are still paying off the $12,000 debt that we incurred in the first year as well as my own eight-year-old student loans. This might seem insignificant to one who graduates pre-med or pre-law, but it is certainly daunting for a California public-school teacher and a graduate student in Luso-Brazilian/Luso-African literature.

UC Village is Berkeley's so-called "Student-Family Housing". However, with housing, living, and loan expenses putting such a strain on family life (and that's just our family of two), we have entered our thirties still reluctant to have children of our own. When I explained this to an older teaching colleague who lived in the Village decades ago, she responded that she had found it easy to pay the $300 rent, take time off of teaching to spend with her son, and to live on her husband's GSI salary. Times have definitely changed!

Thank you for effectively documenting this in the documentary. My heart goes out to those who have shared our difficult experience in the Village and especially to those who have had it even harder (i.e., single parents, international students, and those who simply had to drop out). If Berkeley is to live up to its reputation for welcoming and encouraging diversity in all its forms, it will have to stop resting on its "Free-Speech" laurels and actually start walking the talk.

Anonymous said...

I have racked up thousands of dollars of debt myself. I blame it all on the Baby Boomers. They have always put themselves first. Thanks to them the cost of food, fuel, and housing have shot out of site. I am part of and that has helps a lot.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the rent at UC Village is expensive, I don't understand why people feel that they're entitled to lower rent.

Compared to lots of other places around the Albany/El Cerrito area, living in UC Village is great. You've got great programs for children and students, a really lovely place to live, cheap laundry(!) great maintenance staff who keeps the area clean, large new apartments with modern amenities, and a great bus system that takes you to grocery stores and UC. Albany itself has one of the better school districts in the area too.

Save for the people who have a hard time getting housing because of their international status, if UC Village is so unaffordable, why are people not just moving out to cheaper places around the area? Why insist on racking up loan debts in order to afford to live in the Village?

I don't think we're entitled to low rent. But UC shouldn't be charging us higher than market value rents either. And if they're going to charge us such high rent for a whole year, they really need to give us better financial aid. The budget for family students are based on academic year even though families cannot move out for two months in the summer like students in dorms do.

Anonymous said...

After the VRA meeting last week, I can see that the University administration is unconcerned with the worries and woes of students who can't make ends meet. They are completely out of touch with their constituency and only concerned with the profit they will realize once development commences. I think rent should be subsidized for those who can demonstrate real financial need. A number of single parents in the village have taken to collecting public assistance in the form of welfare, food stamps, etc. It would be interesting to know just what percentage of residence are living under the poverty line.

rocky1211 said...

i din't get u.

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jayfersgirl said...

It was a shock to the system when we moved here from Dallas in May --We sold our 1300 sq. ft. townhouse in Dallas for $85,000 (what we paid for it 3 years earlier). Out here a 1300 sq. ft. house is around $600,000.
So it's a shock to pay $1400 for rent, but at the same time, considering it covers all utilities, internet, and cable (for now), it's not so bad. Especially if you look around at what other nice apartments cost (and let's be honest, this is a GREAT place to live). We decided to live here, because it is so convenient to campus (with a free bus ride for students!), it's in a great area, and we live in a really nice apartment.
It's a shock to move to California, but we feel like it's actually "reasonable" by California standards to live in University Village, all things considered.

Midtoon said...

My wife and I took turns going to college. I did my degree first, so I could get a better job. Now that teh kids are in school, my wife has the opportunity to attend UC Berkeley.

Before moving to UVA, my rent was 700.00 a month more in rent than what i pay here. And that didn't include any unilities.

For me, UVA has been a blessing, and considering the alternatives for a family our size (we have 4 kids)I think we are better off in UVA than out.

I feel for everyone who has to get into deep debt to cover the cost of education, but remember that the situation is not unique to us. The entire educational system has become extremely costly.

I wish you all the means to complete your degrees, pay your bills and enjoy happy, productive and prosperous lives.

Bianca Pascuchelli said...

This is a big problem because if families cannot afford rent and they have to move out, their children will not be able to go to college and the country will have less educated people. They should solve it as authorities do in Argentina: freezing rent prices. I know a company called 4rent Argentina that adjusts to the prices that the government sets. I trust them!