University of Michigan students and representatives from Central Student Government gathered Monday night in the Michigan League for a town hall to discuss the suggestions and revisions for an updated version of the Campus Affordability guide.

The meeting was opened by CSG Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy senior, who reiterated the initial goal of the guide: to create a public document that included resources and tips to make living on campus more affordable for students. Jawad also stated the need to be intersectional with other issues like race and ethnicity. 

The group of about 20 students first addressed the question of whether or not to tailor the guide to all students on campus or to have a specific section for lower-income students. This question proved especially pertinent considering the creation of a response guide, titled “Being Not-Rich at UM.”  

LSA sophomore Sydney McKinstry argued there needs to be more accessibility in order to find important information quickly in the guide.

“I definitely think that there’s value in having sections and including the all-in-one document that’s accessible to everyone, but if there are not sections that are labeled or targeted for certain groups I think that it can be difficult to cipher through all the information,” McKinstry said. “Somebody who’s looking for resources to find an affordable place to live, who are already struggling with funds, aren’t going to need to read an entire section on obtaining money through canceling services and other budgeting-type stuff.”

The group generally agreed the guide would need to go through reorganization to address this problem while taking care not to single out specific groups.

“I think we can think about a way to format it where it does dissect that information because homogenizing all budgeting into all socioeconomic status was not a good move, and I think that there is a way to disseminate that information in a better, more organized way,” Jawad said.

Later, Engineering sophomore Brendan Jackson voiced concern over the section regarding debt transfers, explaining it didn’t include enough information explaining how to do it safely. The discussion continued with a focus on how CSG can implement subsequent events focusing on financial literacy at the University, especially for first-year and second-year students.

“That section can be extremely dangerous for people who don’t know what debt transfers are and don’t know how to do them safely, and it can actually lead to a lot more financial trouble than you started in. I think definitely if it’s going to be included in future versions, it needs to be included with resources with how to do it safely,” Jackson said.

The group discussed strategies for increasing student turnout at CSG-facilitated student workshops and other possible means of making this information available for students. LSA senior Zoe Proegler, who criticized the guide through a Facebook post after its initial publication, voiced her opinion regarding student participation in informational programs.

“I think having some sort of financial literacy training could be helpful,” Proegler said. “That is a huge thing that most people on this campus have to deal with, and not just student loan debt. Talking in a more responsible way about safe ways to manage credit card debt and planning around that could be really helpful.”

Later, the group discussed the history of tenant unions at the University and the possibility of re-instituting them. In the past, tenant unions have advocated for fair housing costs and fair treatment by landlords. The group examined how a possible tenant union could benefit current housing costs by advocating for reasonable prices and helping students with budgeting. This topic was tabled for further discussion in the future.

In the conclusion of the meeting, Jawad expressed CSG’s intention to conduct a survey as a method to more effectively gather student opinion on specific sections of the original guide. Additionally, she included plans to have student representatives from various student organizations and groups to vet drafts of the new CSG affordability guide before its re-publication.

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