Michigan State University’s Housing Issues

By: Molly Melnick

November 11th, 2022

First year student Josh Halprin was in for a shock when he opened his MSULiveOn email to view his dorm assignment for the first time and discovered he had been assigned to live with four roommates instead of one. 

Since the recent reinstatement of the two-year on campus living requirement, Michigan State University has experienced a housing crisis that has spilled into every aspect of university life. Dorms are overfilled, public transportation is lacking, COVID-19 housing is non-existent and infrastructure is clogged by foot traffic. 

These issues are all a direct result of student overpopulation. Not only are both sophomores and freshmen required to live on campus, but the enrollment of the 2022 freshman class is the largest incoming class ever recorded for MSU. 

So big, in fact, the Lansing State Journal reported that 600 students were asked to begin their enrollment in the Spring semester rather than the Fall, and some incoming freshmen, likeHalprin, were given multiple roommates when they requested only one. 

Michigan State University had previously instilled the two year live-on requirement and then waived it in the 80s, but reinstated it in early 2021 saying that, “Reinstating the second-year live-on requirement will help us better equip our students with the tools they need, while in a supportive and safe environment, to help them succeed.” 

Michigan State University has provided students with several studies assuring them that a two-year live-on requirement raises the rate of graduation and provides students with the support they need to overcome the “sophomore slump” burnout that second year students can experience. However, the issue of burnout has been replaced by the issue of major campus overpopulation. 

Point blank: the dorms are overcrowded. Halprin, who lives in Akers hall with three first year students and a fourth transitional roommate, (a student waiting to be moved into their own dorm once space opens up) has to share a bathroom with four other people and squeeze five beds and a desk into a dorm meant for four. And he is not alone. 15% of the new student population is currently living with a transitional roommate, which is a non-sustainable system for many. 

And with barely enough housing to hold paying students, MSU has declared there will be no on-campus COVID-19 housing. Students must have their own plan in the event they test positive, or go home. For out of state students, international students and students who don’t feel comfortable exposing their family members, this is not an option. 

Halprin, who has been lucky to receive relaxed roommates, has been able to adjust to his close quarters thus far. However, the issue of student overpopulation extends beyond the dorm buildings, and Halprin has noticed. His main issue with the overpopulation is the lack of proper public transportation for the student body. 

As most MSU students know, the bus system has always been inconsistent, but the influx of students needing to use public transportation has made an already severe problem absolutely dire. Double the amount of MSU students are attempting to get from place to place, and the bus system cannot keep up. 

“Living with four roommates really is only half of the issue. Distance to get to campus is the worst part. You either have to commit to a flawed bus system and hope it picks you up in under an hour’s wait, or walk 45 minutes to class every day,” Halprin said. 

Even worse, half the time buses are so full they don’t even stop on their usual routes to pick up students. Claire Wiegand, a sophomore on campus, recalls the difference compared to the previous year when only one class of students lived on campus. “I waited thirty minutes at a bus stop yesterday only for it to blow right past me once it came around because it was full, and it’s still warm outside. I cannot imagine how full the buses will be in the winter when it gets too cold to walk,” she said. “Last year, it was bad, but this is a new level.” 

Naturally, students who can are steering away from utilizing the bus system and are instead choosing to walk. However, this only creates an even further issue. The amount of pedestrian foot traffic on campus has increased two-fold, clogging up roads, sidewalks, and infrastructure on campus. 

Commuter students who are driving or busing to class are stuck in traffic letting pedestrians cross and are often late. Bikers have taken to biking on the grass to get past the swarms of pedestrians. 

Dining halls are busier, lines are longer, combos go faster and second year students are now two years deep into room and board fees. The situation is out of control, and MSU’s hands-off approach to solving the issues reveals just how much universities can be businesses before they are educational institutions. 

Despite the university promising that two-year housing solves burnout, students are visibly struggling with the challenges overpopulation presents. First years are given the worst locations with multiple roommates, and second years have to adapt to a student surge they have never faced before. For students, these student surges are a major issue and yet, there is nowhere for anyone to voice their frustrations.

Google searches for “petition against MSU live-on requirement” come up virtually blank, and alternative housing options are limited and competitive. A great first step toward solving this issue is by creating a space for students to speak against this requirement. Petitions, facebook groups and physical spaces where MSU can be held accountable are needed to work toward making Michigan State University more affordable and enjoyable for all. 

Molly Melnick is a sophomore in professional and public writing with a minor in public relations. Her goal post graduation is to pursue a career in writing, editing and publishing. When she isn’t studying, she enjoys reading and writing poetry.

Photo credit: Quan Nguyen.