With their first year at Vassar winding down, some freshmen may be in for an expensive surprise. Summer storage is an expense that many first-years don’t factor into their yearly college budget, but, as they are now learning, finding a space to keep their possessions is inevitable for students hailing from outside the Northeast.
Even some of the cheapest rental units will go for between $150-$200 for the whole summer. The College will not grant any financial assistance to any students towards renting out storage units. Director of Financial Aid Jessica Bernier explained her office’s position on the issue.
She wrote in an emailed statement, “The cost for summer storage is not something the Financial Aid Office will be considering to cover or subsidized as part of the financial aid package awarded to a student, as this is not a mandatory charge for all students.”
Bernier continued saying that unlike tuition, room and board and health service fees, all of which the Financial Aid Office does consider mandatory and will subsidize, there is no set amount students are required to pay for summer or semester storage.
The price of a locker or trailer will vary significantly based on a number of different factors such as the storage company, the size of a rental unit and whether or not a student decides to share the space with one or two friends and split the cost.
Some students live close enough to drive back and can bring their possessions with them back home, dispensing with the necessity of summer storage altogether.
Marie Pitre ’15 thinks that the annual costs associated with summer storage takes too big of a bite out of a student’s budget.
She said, “It’s a huge financial burden and the school should at least cover some of this, but they don’t. Financial aid doesn’t do enough, in my opinion.”
Pitre is from Southern California, and for her, along with hundreds of other students, driving home at the end of the year is not a viable option.
“It’s hard because you have your life here and your life back at home,” she said. “So you don’t want to have to transport six to seven boxes of crap whether it’s a bike, a chair, a rug, a fridge or your clothes.”
With no on-campus or college-affiliated storage facility, students have to turn to private storage sites that are miles away from campus.
Monday, April 21 was the first day of the Residential Life Storage Expo where outside vendors set up tables in the College Center and give interested students a rundown of the available options and pricings.
Size is the single greatest factor in determining the price of a rental units. The smallest-sized and thus cheapest units are the most popular among Vassar students.
One of the most affordable options is a Page Self Storage 4 x 6 x 8 ft. unit available for $152.00 for the entire summer season.
However, this deal comes with the caveat that students are responsible for bringing their belongings to a storage site eight miles off campus.
Last year, finding an off-campus locker for his items was not enough for Jordan Palmer ’16, who then had to figure out how to get his possessions to its location several miles off campus with no car.
Palmer’s first task was finding the cardboard boxes into which he could pack his belongings. He described how, because he made his plans so late, that he had to be creative in scavenging some discarded boxes.
“I went to the Retreat dumpster to get left over boxes to put all my stuff in, I probably could have prepared better ordering boxes online but just with all the work I had to do, I just didn’t,” said Palmer.
“One of my friends had a car and I borrowed it, then I drove to the storage space which was on Route 9…If I didn’t have access to any car at all I would’ve been in trouble, because I wouldn’t have had any way to get my stuff there myself,” said Palmer.
Addspace charges $240.00 for the relatively small 4 x 4 x 3 locker, but they do provide an extra service. An Addspace truck will drive up and deliver the locker to the front of a residence hall. Students will fill the lockers, which are then loaded back on the trucks and taken to the storage facility.
Addspace also offers a cheaper rate of $426.00 for current sophomores going abroad in the fall and storing their belongings for almost eight months.
According to a representative at the expo, Addspace rents out more than 200 of these 4 x 4 x 3 units every summer, which would make them one of the most popular options among Vassar students.
The amount of space in a rental unit advertised can be misleading for the first-years. Both Pitre and Palmer made the mistake their freshman year of renting a storage unit that was too large for their needs.
Said Pitre, “I just think it’s Vassar’s job to let us know that we should share the storage spaces, if I had gone into my freshman space alone, I got the largest one, or even two of us, I would have been paying significantly more.”
Pitre continued, “Most of the time when you get storage space, they’re pretty large so you can’t fill it up all by yourself so you need another person, which makes the cost much easier.”
Palmer also described how felt like he overspent in his freshman year.
“I paid more than I should have…I mean, I should have been on top of it, but like I said, the work-load got in the way, I had all these finals and essays to worry about,” he said.
Students looking to save money should find a friend or two and agree to divide the space in a rental unit. Doing so can cut the cost of storage to under a hundred dollars.
“I got three people in a medium sized room for $80 per person for the whole summer, which is a really good price,” said Pitre. “But as a freshman, you wouldn’t know that going into it by yourself and it would cost $200 for you, by yourself, for the entire summer.”
Unlike Vassar, at some liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, students don’t have to worry about the costs involved because the school handles student storage directly.
Haverford College offers free storage space on a limited, first-come-first-serve basis. Students at Middlebury College can store their belongings at a facility over the summer for only $10 per box or item.
Meanwhile, other colleges grant storage only to select students who fulfill certain criteria. Wellesley students living more than 300 miles away from campus are allowed to store two large items, and students living more 600 miles away four large items. Williams College grants storage rights to international students and students on financial aid with sufficient need as determined by their office of financial aid.
Even if Vassar has no storage facility, Pitre suggests that there are other ways the College can help students. She points specifically to how not all have the means of transporting boxes and furniture to self-storage sites.
Pitre said, “I think [Vassar] should definitely look into providing us with a way to at least get there because we don’t have any shuttles currently.”
More often than not, the choice to rent a summer storage article is not a choice at all, given all a student’s belongings.
“You have to leave it all here because you can’t drive three days cross country with it all,” said Pitre. “I’m not willing to do it, at least.”