The caste system of off-campus housing


Hundreds of thousands of college students have come from far and wide to attend Brigham Young University since the school opened in 1875.

Relocating to Provo and the surrounding area while they study at BYU, most students have found residence in apartment complexes, condominiums and houses, particularly south of campus.

The recent rise of new developments near BYU — pricier, trendier and more upscale living places — have brought into focus the social stereotypes, as they relate to housing, that have always existed here.

“I remember back when I came to BYU, all the cool people lived at King Henry,” professor Steven Thomsen said.

Times have changed. The iconic apartments southeast of campus probably still include their share of “cool” people, but the wealthier ones have migrated elsewhere, it appears.

By the numbers

So how many students live near BYU?

According to BYU’s Off-Campus Housing Office, 12,312 students live in BYU-contracted housing.

The average cost for residents is $272 per month for a shared room and $360 per month for a private room but can easily range anywhere from $189 to $450, depending on location, quality and “reputation” of the complex.

The most expensive complexes south of campus include The Village and The Isles. Rooms at The Village range from $365 per month and up, with some students paying upwards of $460 a month to live there. Residents at The Isles pay $385 and up per month.

Widening the gap

The rise of upscale housing has produced a more clear delineation between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” according to people familiar with the relatively new phenomenon.

The development of more upscale living quarters such as The Village, The Isles and Foxwood Condominiums has brought about a change in the social atmosphere, according to various informally surveyed BYU students.

“Some of the bigger complexes socially have more amenities that provide for a lot more social interaction, clubhouses and things like that,” said Gary Briggs of BYU’s Off-Campus Housing Office. “Some students are able to afford that; others can’t. That’s why we have a broad range of houses, apartment complexes and condominiums.”

Causing a divide?

The changes have taken their toll on the social and cultural makeup of the school, but shifts like this are difficult to quantify and many people aren’t certain how much difference the changes have made.

Briggs said the higher-priced complexes have not drastically changed the economic landscape of BYU housing. The increase in average price matches an increase in the cost of living, he said.

“We like to see more ventures come into the system, but we still like to keep the older facilities in our system so the students have choices,” Briggs said. “It’s created a pretty diverse area out there.”

Students say the effect the new housing developments have had on the social scene is real and tangible.

McKenna Hill, a business management major, described a great divide between the way people act in the expensive complexes versus the more affordable apartments.

“It seems like people don’t like to associate with many outside of the place they live. Girls where I live don’t want to compete (for dates) with girls who live down the street in The Isles,” Hill said.

Scott Blanch, a senior studying bioinformatics, currently pays $270 per month for a shared room in a house. He believes the prices of these newer, large complexes are extravagant.

“There’s definitely correlation between the stereotype and the increased price,” Blanch said. “There’s a saying that goes, ‘The higher the price, the higher the shorts.’ Certain complexes do attract certain types of people. Why that is, I don’t know.”

Jade Nitsos, a freshman from Sacramento, is the first member of her family to come to BYU. As she decides where she wants to live next year, she looked to the advice of her upperclassmen peers in helping to make her decision.

Nitsos heard that places such as The Village and King Henry are sociable, but a few people have counseled her not to live there. Without experiencing firsthand the social divides south of campus, Nitsos is left to rely on the advice of her fellow students to make her decision.

She said the way a complex is perceived socially plays a huge role in her decision process.

“It is definitely important to consult with upperclassmen and get advice if you want to make the most of your experience. I am looking for something close to campus that also has fun people,” Nitsos said.

Chris Johnson returned from his mission within the past few months and has not had much personal experience with off-campus housing.

“I have heard that The Village is the ‘tool box,’ but I don’t really know. I’m not even sure I know what that means,” Johnson said.

Finding the right place

This growing trend of “you are where you live” at BYU may even begin to impact students who live in places other than those that are seen as newer, livelier and more desirable.

“The people you live around are the people you date, and the people you date are the people you marry,” said junior Trent Christiansen. “In my view, it is vital to pick a place to live with people that share your same views on life. I certainly don’t want to marry a stump!”

He said certain groups expect different traits in dating partners.

“Girls who live in The Village seem to have high expectations. I don’t think I would fit in there,” Christiansen said.

Blanch doesn’t buy into the new-housing hype and changes to the campus culture that others say are taking place. He doesn’t believe the high-end apartments have made a huge impact on the other housing complexes in Provo. But he’s not sure what the future will bring.

“I think most complexes are pretty compartmentalized — the people that live there as well as their way of thinking,” Blanch said. “Whether or not that will change the way people are when they leave Provo? I guess we will see.”

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