Landlords Near OSU Fear Losing Income To New Sophomore Rule

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by Debbie Holmes

There’s a new rule at the Ohio State University.  Sophomores from out-of-town will be required to live in main campus dorms beginning this fall.  It’s a move the university hopes will improve student success and development.  Students start moving in Thursday, and some off-campus landlords say they already feel the loss of rental income.

“Hardwood floors, ceramic tile, you know all new kitchen and appliances, so it’s pretty spacious,” said Tom Heilman of Hometeam Properties of his completely renovated rental homes on E. 11th Avenue near Summit.  

Heilman's company leases 150 buildings near Ohio State that can house up to 1500 students.  In mid-July, Heilman estimated 95 percent of his properties were leased. That’s not where he wanted to be.

“I’ve been 100 percent for 30 years, the only time I wasn’t leased is if I bought somebody’s problem and fixed it and then the next year we’re 100 percent leased," Heilman said. 

Heilman doesn’t see how forcing sophomores to remain on campus enhances their college experience.

“I don’t think forcing people to do anything really works. I don’t see the value of that. I don’t see making people spend $800-$900 to share a room creates that sophomore experience that they want to qualify," Heilman said.

With fewer students renting apartments and houses off campus, Heilman says he’s dropped some rents by up to 30 percent. Rooms are going for as low as $300 a month.  He says the new vacancies could cost the company $35,000 a month.

Ohio State expects nearly 6,000 sophomores to live on campus this school year.  That’s about double the number of sophomores living on campus before the new rule. A dorm room costs about $4,000 a semester.  A meal plan adds about $2,000 a semester.

Among Big Ten schools, WOSU couldn’t find any similar sophomore requirement, while several Ohio colleges do make sophomores live on campus.

21-year-old Ciarra Taylor is an OSU senior who enjoys living off campus.  She moved into a house in July with three other students.

“This is a lot better.  This is the first time I’ve ever had my own bathroom, so I’m pretty excited," said Taylor.

Taylor expects to pay about $550 a month including all utilities.

Her roommate, 21-year-old Erica Jackson says while she likes the additional space in a house, living on campus can have its perks.

“Since I did live my first two years on campus, I definitely feel like it prepared me enough, like it gave me enough time to live on campus and soak all that in, and also create an excitement to live off campus and still feel like I was ready to make that transition by my third year," said Jackson.

20-year-old junior John LaVange from Warren, Ohio transferred from Columbus State.  He’s never lived on campus, but says he sees the benefits for those getting used to college life.         

“When you’re on campus and you’re kind of in a closed dorm area, number one, food is always around the corner so that’s always helpful, and number two, you’re always next to friends or new people you can meet, so I can definitely see where the positives are coming from it," said LaVange.

Just north of campus, Todd Jessup manages University Village Apartments.  He sees a different rental market with older students looking for smaller apartments. 

“I think the juniors, they’re focusing on living a little bit more on their own than the sophomores would be.  So, if you have three, four, five, six bedroom places, those are the ones that are seeing a little bit of suffering from this market change," Jessup said.

With just two weeks before the start of classes, Jessup still had 100 bedrooms to lease out of 1,900. But he’s confident the new sophomore rule won’t hold down the market for long.

“I think that if you take care of them and you do a good job, with the increased enrollment that they’re having, people coming from transfers onto the main campus, those numbers are somewhat absorbed," Jessup said.

Ohio State’s fall classes begin August 23.


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