To the Honors College: Yuma still has its perks
Yuma Residence Hall on James E. Rogers Way.
Some Yuma Hall residents get overly obsessed with their dorm, and I am a poster child for that obsession. I’m here again for a third year, and I just love it — the people, the community and even Yuma’s smell has grown on me. So, out of my affection, I am speaking one final plea on behalf of Yuma as an honors dorm.
Next year, Yuma will no longer be an honors dorm. Students who want to live in a designated honors community will need to live in the new Honors Village. I think this is a mistake.
Admittedly, I have been skeptical of the Honors Village from the beginning, but I can see now that a lot of people are really excited to live there. It will come with great features, including its own dining hall and honors classrooms. Also, there is something to say about all honors students living together in a united community. The two current honors dorms, Yuma and Árbol de la Vida are disparate communities that rarely interact.
However, we can see currently that although Árbol is an objectively nicer dorm, it doesn’t attract 100 percent of honors students. There are reasons why Yuma always fills so fast during the housing selection process, even when Arbol doesn’t fill.
My guess is that the number-one reason is cost. Not all honors students come from families who can afford to put down an extra thousand-and-a-half so they can live in Árbol. However, the cost of a room for a year in Árbol, $8,370, is less than the cheapest option in the Honors Village, $8,850 for a double suite dorm room.
Also, unlike other dorms, students in the Honors Village are required to purchase meal plans. First-year students will be automatically signed up for an Ocotillo Swipe Plan, which costs $5,580 per year, and includes 15 meals per week and $400 in CatCash.
The Honors College points out that it is not mandating the meal plan, but rather University of Arizona Dining Services is. The cost can’t be brushed off for this reason, though; it is still part of the cost of living at the new Honors Complex. So, the lowest price room and board costs $12,250 for the year, while Yuma, with the smallest meal plan, costs $9,110. Some residents, for cost reasons, choose to go without a meal plan, making the cost of housing $6,960 for the year, less than half of the Honors Village.
There are important points to make about cost. First, not all honors students need to live in the Honors Village (and I ask the UA to please, please, please never move to a mandated stay like Barrett, the Honors College in Tempe has). However, this means that a prerequisite for being part of an Honors community is either having a lot of money, or being willing to take on extra debt. I know the Honors College previously has not liked the comparison with Barrett, but the rates and options are starting to look quite similar.
Second, there will be scholarships available. However, at the time of their presentation in Yuma Hall in mid-October, the Honors College did not have information as to what those would look like, even though the application to live in the Honors Village opened on October 1. Should students then gamble and guess that the scholarships provided can make it affordable for them? I cannot imagine that enough scholarships can be provided to enough students to make the Honors Village comparable to Yuma pricing for residents who need it. If the Honors College can show that it has several hundred $5,000 scholarships to give out, then my complaints about the Honors Village will virtually disappear.
Though, one might argue that I can’t compare the Honors Village’s price to Yuma’s. Of course there is more value at the Honors Village! I wish we could all afford these better services, but I assure you, if it was all about services, some Yuma residents would be living in Árbol right now.
There are other reasons why residents choose Yuma. Some might like its proximity to the center of campus. I (and many others) chose it because we love the feel of it. When I toured both Árbol and Yuma before my freshman year, I immediately fell in love with Yuma’s size, its coziness, its age and history and its tradition of a tight-knit community. Yuma is well known for its strong community, and for this reason it has an incredibly high rate of returning students.
Also, some of us young people were just born old people, and new things don’t impress us much. Even if students can afford the Honors Village, some might prefer the humble yet mighty Yuma Hall.
One thing that attracted me so much to UA’s Honors program versus ASU’s was the choice. Unlike ASU, at UA I could choose if I wanted to live on campus, if I wanted a meal plan, and what kind of community I wanted to live in. Removing Yuma as an option for an honors community removes some of this choice.
It makes numerical sense to remove Yuma from the honors housing list. There will be more beds in the village in than Yuma and Árbol combined. However, it’s important to point out that while the Honors College is building something great, it is also losing something special.
Yuma will be missed.
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