Around 300 first-year undergraduate transfer students are temporarily living in the graduate student quarters located on the Health Sciences Campus because the university underestimated the amount of students in need of on-campus housing this school year.
Transfer students are typically housed in The Village on the north-west side of campus, but 400 were designated to North and West Mesa Housing, which lies two miles away from campus alongside Interstate 5. However, a representative from Housing, Dining, and Hospitality (HDH) said that the students will most likely have to vacate West Mesa by Oct. 28 and North Mesa by February due to upcoming renovations. Because of their housing guarantee, they can either choose to live on-campus in the dorms, hope that space in The Village or International House opens up, or find off-campus housing.
“Students will need to relocate to campus as spaces open up,” said UCSD Communications Representative Christine Clark. “The campus is working to relocate everyone as soon as possible. Students may not remain in Mesa for the duration of their contract, as it has always been indicated as temporary housing.” Clark said that HDH will also cover the cost of their move to campus.
The new class of 7,600 freshmen was “overflowed” to other college housing and spaces typically given to upperclassmen in The Village and International House, pushing transfer students out to graduate housing. Transfer students were notified in the summer that because incoming first-year students needed to be accommodated first, there would not be enough space in The Village for all those guaranteed on-campus housing. Initially, there were about 400 transfer students living in the Mesa Apartments, but since last week, over 100 were offered space and have moved on campus.
As new transfer students, juniors Alejandro Barrionuevo, Vincentio Liberatore, and Bryan Ortiz live in a two-bedroom suite in North Mesa. As former community college students, the three are still adjusting to the fast-paced quarter system.
During the second week of fall quarter, Ortiz called HDH to better understand his living situation. He was told that despite the circumstances, all transfer students living in the Mesa will be charged $50 per day to live in Mesa, the equivalent rate of on-campus housing. When they first moved into their suite, the three had no Wi-Fi or internet access. Although they tried contacting the office in Mesa Housing and HDH, they were often redirected to Spectrum, the school’s internet provider, or told that repairmen would be arriving. It took over a week before the suite’s Wi-Fi was fixed.
According to Liberatore, the lines for shuttles every morning are extremely long, and often times, students have to wait over half an hour to reach campus. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. just to make it on time to his 9:30 a.m. class. The spotty weekend shuttle schedule also inconveniences students who want to study at the library or use their Dining Dollars at on-campus dining halls. Presently, there are some food trucks accepting Dining Dollars sent to Mesa Housing, but only between 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., so students taking evening courses are unable to access the food trucks.
“The demand for on-campus housing continues to outpace availability, compounded in part by San Diego’s expensive rental and housing market,” UCSD Communications told the San Diego Union Tribune last week. “Living on campus is a choice for students and it continues to be a popular one: This year, we had more new and returning students opting to live on campus than previous years, combined with lower-than-normal cancellations that occur throughout the summer leading up to fall openings.”
HDH sends weekly updates to the transfer students. By Nov. 1, it hopes to have moved out all undergraduates in graduate housing, since there are over 3,000 graduate students on the housing waitlist for Mesa. To incentivize students to find their own off-campus housing, HDH is offering $4,000 to $4,500 per student and moving help for those willing to give up their housing contract for the 2017-18 school year. According to an email sent out on Oct. 9 by HDH, the offer is valid through Oct. 20 and there are limited incentive packages available.
For junior Nathaly Ramirez, this is the first time she is living on her own, away from her family. Although originally paired with someone else, Ramirez’s assigned roommate was given a spot in The Village within three days of move-in. With no other suitemates, Ramirez lives by herself in an apartment in North Mesa.
“I was so scared on the first night. It was shocking because this whole experience was all new to me. I did not know anyone, and I felt isolated from the entire transfer community. I had to figure out the whole shuttle and bus system,” Ramirez said. “Although I was excited to come to UCSD, this situation is disappointing, and if I do have to find a place off-campus with some friends I made, I would have to find a job just to be able to pay my monthly rent and utility bills even though I was not planning on working my first quarter at school.”
In the midst of all of this, Mesa Housing is being redeveloped, starting with the West Mesa apartments and the community gardens in Mesa Nueva. In order to accommodate the ongoing construction, 138 transfer students in West Mesa were moved back on campus by the end of the second week of school.
Several transfer students are contemplating accepting the incentive package and have begun the search for off-campus housing. But for students like junior Harpreet Setia, the disadvantages of off-campus living outweigh the benefits.
“Living on-campus, even if it is in the residential halls with other freshmen, is much more convenient when it comes down to getting to class quicker and eating and using Dining Dollars. I was injured recently, and I want to stay close to the school — I also want to move out faster,” said Setia. “So far, I have not heard back from HDH even though I call them regularly and am often sent to voicemail. No one has gotten back to me on my move-out options, and it’s become pretty frustrating.”
Around 300 transfer students in North Mesa are still waiting to find out their housing options for the rest of the school year. The lack of certainty is disconcerting for several transfer students, including Ortiz and his roommates.
“We have no peace of mind as to whether or not we’ll be staying here or moving out. We are far away from our own community, and we want to be able to do what we came here to do — to study and learn,” said Ortiz. “By the time we move out, it’ll be around midterm week, and juggling school work and housing will just be too much to handle. That’s the worst part.”
Ella Chen is a contributing writer at The Triton.