Nataly Ore, BU student and Brandon University Students' Union general manager.
Students still weighing their housing options should consider their overall university experience before thinking about the effect it will have on their wallet, one Brandon University student advises.
"It’s definitely an experience that I think university students should go through at least once in their lifetime," said Nataly Ore, BU student and the Brandon University Students’ Union general manager, when referring to living on campus. "Although off-campus housing might seem more affordable at the moment, you have to take into account time, if you don’t have that much time, it’s just as valuable as money."
The cost of rent in a furnished single or double occupancy room in one of the three residence halls on campus can range anywhere from $360 to $617 a month, including utilities.
Included in the housing fee is a $50 residence student association fee, $130.20 in facility fees, $21.79 for maintenance and a $50 refundable key deposit for room and mail keys. Extra expenses include $25 a month for Internet and $17 a day or $118 a week to be part of the campus’ meal plan.
The three residence halls on campus include co-ed McMaster Hall, which can host up to 270 students, Flora Cowan, female only, can accommodate 110 students and male only Darrach Hall hosts 90.
As of last week, there were still 38 spots available in residence, which is normal for this time of year according to Paul O’Driscoll, director of residence hall programs at BU. About 12 to 14 per cent of the spots each year are also taken up by Assiniboine Community College students, he said.
"We always want to be full to capacity, we’re always trying to do that," he said. "I know that it’s a better res life experience when we have lots of people here."
Students who choose to live at home or off campus could miss out on part of the university experience, he said.
"There is an additional cost, but you get a lot of value for that extra cost."
But some out-of-town students like Ore, who was born in Peru, grew up in Miami and then moved to Brandon to finish her business administration degree in January 2011, are sometimes just looking for convenience.
"Knowing that I would be coming somewhere where it’s minus 40 sometimes I definitely wanted something convenient and closer to classes," she said.
Besides providing a convenient housing option for students, there are also other perks to living in residence.
"The academic residence assistants are really helpful … I was actually one in my second year, but in my first year, it was helpful to have those there in the evening times when you need help with homework or need to ask questions," she said.
Providing resources like these for students is a big part of living on campus, O’Driscoll said.
"We do everything we can to interact with our first-year students to get them off to a strong start, so that’s an important part of the res life experience."
Besides offering various programs and hosting hundreds of events each year, some of the residence halls have also seen upgrades over the summer.
When students return in September, they will be greeted by a "more welcoming dining hall" equipped with new flooring in front of the dining room and wooden doors replaced with glass, O’Driscoll said.
"By themselves, they’re kind of small things, but it’s just going to be a much nicer area."
Rooms have also been cleared out on the first floor of the south wing of Darrach Hall to make room for a TV and study space as well as a lounge that will soon be equipped with new furniture chosen by the residence student council. Plans for the space could also include a new pool, ping pong and air hockey table.
The entrance from the residence complex into the Healthy Living Centre is now also easily accessible with a newly installed wheelchair ramp.
Another change to residence, coming in April 2014 to McMaster Hall, will be the addition of an Aboriginal Floor: Awe Nindawiin Ajina, which means "home for a while" in Ojibwe.
"The environment, the decor, the colours will reflect the communities that are represented on the floor. There will be space for about 28 students," said Rhonda McCorriston, director of BU's Indigenous Peoples Centre. "I think everybody needs a chance to get away and have that kind of environment and this floor will provide that for students.
"They’ll see things that matter to those aboriginal students that are coming so far from home."
With 33 years of residence experience, O’Driscoll said he’s also noticed a few other changes during his time at BU. Some of which include consulting with students when it comes to making changes to campus life and the overall seriousness of students.
"I would go home on the weekends but when I'd come back on Sunday night, there would be broken glass and litter on the stairwell. It would be a mess. It’s not like that now," he said reflecting on his time living in BU residence in the late 1970s. "We run an operation that we take a lot of pride in and that the students that live here take pride in."
Providing a supportive environment and assisting students more in their success has also been enhanced over the years.
"We should be doing things to create an environment for them to succeed."
But one change that could be made to residence is making it a more cooking-friendly environment. Currently, there is one kitchenette available for students to use for cooking in Flora Cowan and hot plates are not permitted in the rooms.
"It's not enough that everybody can use it all the time obviously, but for somebody who feels like doing some cooking and wants to make something, that facility is kept open," he said. "Would students like to do more of their own cooking? I think they would, but I also think that they rely on our ability to deliver to them quality food services during their busiest times."
Not having to cook frees up time for other things and campus food operations are also working on providing more daily specials for students including healthier options, Ore said.
"Having a meal plan is great because then I don’t have to worry about cooking," she said.
Overall, she has found that living in residence has provided her with a sense of balance.
"It has allowed me to have an academic life as well as a social life and also be able to work, which is sometimes hard to do and balance those three when you’re a university student."
Rooms in residence still available
As of last week, there were a total of 38 spots available in both single and double occupancy rooms in Brandon University’s three residence halls. These include:
• McMaster Hall (co-ed): 8 single occupancy rooms and two double occupancy rooms
• Darrach Hall (male only): 14 single occupancy rooms and four double occupancy rooms
• Flora Cowan (female only): Four single occupancy rooms and six double occupancy
The university doesn’t implement any official cut-off dates for residence applications and accepts students, including those from Assiniboine Community College, throughout the year.
» Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 19, 2013