U primers cover off-campus living

Kevin McCahill

First-year students Tim Krsnak and Sara Meddock are residence hall dwellers looking for the best apartments they can find while sticking to a budget.

Krsnak, a finance student, wants his apartment to have a kitchen, and nursing student Meddock wants her own bedroom in her apartment. Krsnak said he plans to check costs by visiting a few different housing options.

“Money-wise, it’s important,” he said of his search.

With many questions left in the minds of students preparing to move out on their own, the University has organized off-campus housing sessions to inform future renters.

Coordinator for Student and Community Relations Kendre Turonie is primed to help students and is working with University Student Legal Service to help prepare students for living off campus.

Turonie said the half-hour meetings will explain the finer points of signing a lease, dealing with landlords and how to avoid angry neighbors. The sessions also will discuss retaining a deposit and alerting students to city ordinances regarding shoveling and yard care.

“We’ll talk about what things to look out for, what things are to a student’s benefit and what aren’t,” she said.

Mark Karon, director of Student Legal Service, said the meeting will offer guidance for students.

He said attorneys will make presentations and answer questions.

The sessions have been held for the past four years, he said.

Previously students asked for information during the forums, Karon said. But with more students living offcampus, Karon and other University officials thought it was a good idea to make it an annual event.

“This is no longer a commuter campus,” he said. “More and more students are living in the neighborhoods near campus. That raises legal concerns about what is their responsibilities and legal rights.”

The Minnesota Student Association also is putting on the nine sessions at residence halls and apartments. It will share its renter’s survey with students.

Turonie said the University doesn’t comment on specific houses or apartment complexes, but the student survey provides strong feedback from students living at the locales.

“We encourage students to really investigate into what they really want,” Turoni said. “They are going to be making these kinds of choices the rest of their lives.”

Katie White, political science junior and facilities and housing chairwoman for MSA, said the sessions also came about in response to a fall 2003 house fire near campus. White said the group wanted to increase awareness in housing options.

“People should attend the sessions to find out about many resources available to them in terms of renter’s rights,” White said. “First-time renters are often overwhelmed, but by sitting down and talking, they can get a good idea of what they can do.”

White said students also can see the MSA-produced renter’s guide, which is a collection of nearly 1,400 student ratings on housing options around the University.

Turonie said the informational meetings began from a nudge by neighborhood associations that wanted to see the University help prepare students to live off campus early.

Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association President Joe Ring is in favor of the meetings because, he said, they create better neighbors.

“Part of the thing you run into is that they are coming from all different areas of America and beyond,” he said. “They have never lived in an urban environment, and they are kids. Living in a condensed area can create problems.”

Ring said he believes the sessions will also open students’ eyes as to what they should look for.

“Kids come in and don’t think of safety; they think of cost,” he said. “They don’t think, “Hey does this room have an(other) exit?’ “

The majority of students at the sessions are first-year students and sophomores, though all students are invited to attend, Turonie said. Last year more than 500 attended, she said.

“Some of the problems could be avoided,” she said. “We need to be proactive instead of reactive. Educating people in advance helps a lot.”

As for Krsnak and Meddock, it’s likely many students just like them will get their questions answered and save headaches

“My parents would definitely want me to go,” Meddock said of the event.