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While some students flee home, others torn about costs of staying on campus

Many students have chosen to move back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic but are still paying rent.
A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.
Image by Kamaan Richards
A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.

Many students at the University of Minnesota are moving out earlier than expected this school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, causing added stress during an already trying time.

As the school moves to online instruction, apartment buildings near campus and University housing are making adjustments. Housing and Residential Life is urging students to move home to increase social distancing and decrease contact with workers. HRL announced in an email sent Monday night that students moving out of University housing will receive a flat credit of $1200 for housing and dining expenses.

In a letter sent to all students living in University housing, HRL said that while students may want to stay on campus to be near friends, on-campus dorms and apartments should be reserved only for students who cannot return home or in cases when University housing is their safest option. 

“As tempting as it may be to return to campus to be near your friends, it not only places you and others you care about at risk for exposure to COVID-19, but having more people on campus than is necessary also places our residence hall, food service, and other workers at risk,” reads the HRL notice.

Although many residence halls across the country are closing, the University is allowing students who have no other housing options stay. While HRL may be consolidating residence halls and dining facilities, there will be limited housing availability, a March 19 update says.

Just over a quarter of all students living in University residential housing are in their sophomore year or older, and many of those students are living in apartment-style housing such as Radius and Keeler apartments. 

University sophomore Isabelle Hokanson lives in University Commons, which is not a HRL apartment, and said that her building’s management did not notify her in advance about cutting amenities. While there has been less access to amenities and the leasing office, there has been no change in rent and no leasing flexibility for tenants moving home. Hokanson moved back home to Delano, Minnesota, but said she is still considering coming back to campus if things improve. 

“It’s just been stressful to already have to worry about regular school stuff and then figure out where the heck I’m supposed to live,” Hokanson said. 

University sophomore Ruchee Sawant lives in the Radius apartments this school year, but she has stayed off-campus since spring break. She has not officially moved out yet, but she fills out a survey from HRL every day by noon letting them know whether she is continuing to stay there so staff know how many students are in the building. Most of the amenities in the building have been closed for the foreseeable future, such as the pool and gym.

Sawant is waiting to see if the situation changes before moving home permanently, though both are still paying for their apartments on campus. Grocery convenience was a big factor in both of them moving home for now since the Dinkytown Target is the only grocery store around campus accessible without public transportation for many students.

University sophomore Jake Abbott lives in Bierman Place Apartments, but he is also a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. Abbott’s fraternity house is currently open only to members who are currently living in the house to limit social contact. Many sororities and fraternities are closing down their houses early this year, and most of them have canceled their social calendars for the remainder of the semester. 

“This summer, I applied to all these volunteer opportunities and internships,” Hokanson said. “Now I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not.” 

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