Vanderbilt University graduate students concerned about affordability of apartments built for them

The university’s goal for the project was to provide housing adjacent to the campus and at a lower cost.
The Broadview at Vanderbilt construction
Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-16 06:47:22-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Construction on Vanderbilt University’s new graduate and professional student housing is about a year away from being completed.

The university’s goal for the project is to provide housing adjacent to campus at a lower cost.

This week, prices for the units were released, and several graduate students tell NewsChannel 5 they can’t afford the apartments the university developed for them.

“I thought it would be great. I was looking forward to potentially living by myself again and being able to afford that — and then the pricing came out. I was, like, negative," Black Graduate and Professional Students Vice President Ebony Hargrove-Wiley explained.

Hargrove-Wiley doesn't know how graduate students are expected to afford the new apartments, named The Broadview at Vanderbilt.

The complex is accepting applications, and next Fall, Vanderbilt students will be able to move in.

A Vanderbilt University spokesperson said it’s a chance to offer students cheaper rent with popular amenities and be close to campus.

"Typically, what they're charging for this is going to be about 50% to 60% of most graduate students’ stipends," Vanderbilt Graduate Workers United Co-President Kelly Cunningham said.

A quick glance at the floor plans reveals that a 267-square-foot studio apartment would cost a graduate student or professional student $1,377, plus an amenity fee.

"Which is about $5.1per square foot. If you look at similar studio apartments, they’re twice the size — so, they’re closer to like $3 per square foot," Cunningham said.

"A lot of minoritized populations, they don’t come from family wealth, so we don’t have people we can resource in order to help us supplement our stipend," Hargrove-Wiley said.

Vanderbilt University released the following statement about its concerns:

"One of the goals of providing graduate student housing adjacent to campus was to offer a lower cost alternative with popular amenities and easy access to campus. This project will help build interdisciplinary connections among these students and support the university’s strategic priorities, including its commitment to sustainability, diversity, and accessibility. It also enhances Vanderbilt’s ability to recruit the best students to our rapidly growing city.

Compared to similar apartment buildings near Vanderbilt’s campus, average rental rates across all unit types are approximately 18% below market this year. The units include a full kitchen, private bathrooms, and in-unit washer/dryer and the building amenities include a collaboration working space, study lounges, outdoor private terrace, and a fitness center. There is also a grocery store and coffee shop onsite for easy access. It is also important to note that the amenity fee includes internet, utilities, trash, and furnishings.

Vanderbilt partnered with Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions and Axium Infrastructure to develop, finance, operate, and maintain the building, which is owned by BBCS/Axium. As with market housing developments, the project must be financially self-sustaining. Through a partnership with Vanderbilt, BBCS/Axium will be able to keep rates below market value for comparable housing."

"I don’t see how this is going to help anyone who is already struggling to afford finances. Also, if the apartments are this small, it’s not like it’s a space to hang out," Cunningham said.

These graduate students fear the price tag will push students away from the university.

"Especially from your international and marginalized populations that don’t have many other resources in order to afford the cost of living and other expenses," Hargrove-Wiley said.

Hargrove-Wiley said many graduate students already work side gigs, like as delivery drivers, to pay for necessities like groceries.

They said Vanderbilt’s peer institutions, like Duke University, offer a higher stipend and don’t have to deal with the expensive housing rates.

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