To the editor: After years of eagerly looking forward to attending UAF, my boys are finally set to begin their freshman year. We were so disappointed the university would now be requiring all freshmen to live on campus unless they apply for and receive an exemption. In the initial correspondence, there was no mention of possible exemptions and it was only through research that we learned of them. The letters completely forgot about the commuters.
This incident helped solidify a feeling that in all the long emails and shiny pamphlets, my boys and students like them were not included in the university’s information. Looking at the statistics from UAF’s website, the freshman class of 2018 had 64 students from outside of Alaska and 696 students from within Alaska. In short, over 90% of UAF’s true student body is from within our state and a great many from Fairbanks. The university must remember that the same financial pinch they are facing is the one that 90% of their student body is facing. These students and their families are also facing increased costs and the impact of the reduced budget on their incomes.
When UA President Jim Johnsen addressed the Senate earlier this year, he rejected comparing our university system with those in the Lower 48 as a “pears to apples” comparison due to differences in our cost of living and other factors. It is wrong for the university to now argue it is appropriate for them to tell freshmen they must live on campus because it is so common in other places. Although living on campus may be wonderful for some, others must consider the economic realities of going $40,000 in debt just for the experience of living four years in the dorms.
If commuting does impact performance, perhaps it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the university does not support these students, it is very likely many will be less successful. It would be wonderful for the university to make this part of their student body feel welcomed too.