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Immoral missuse
of a helping hand
Posted December 2, 2005

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” recently broadcast a story on the controversy of college athletes living in apartments designated for low-income families. This government project is also called section eight housing.

The purpose of section eight housing is to provide safe, decent and affordable housing complexes for those with low incomes. In order to obtain the housing, you must qualify through the complex and be approved.

A year ago, the Des Moines Register uncovered a situation in which hundreds of athletes at the University of Iowa, including football, soccer and softball players, were living in Pheasent Ridge, a low income housing complex in the vicinity of the college.

It turns out that there are several other prominent universities around the country, such as Nebraska and Virginia Tech who are experiencing the same situation with their student athletes. Some of these athletes at Iowa happened to come from wealthy families, a fact uncovered by the Des Moines Register.

The athletes hear of these housing opportunities through word of mouth when they enter the school and quickly question others on how to get into this situation. Who wouldn’t want to live in a decent apartment, off campus, for dirt cheap at the university’s expense? Remember, most of these athletes are on full scholarships. If an athlete chooses to live off campus, they receive a monthly stipend from the school for living expenses. Instead of spending all or most of the stipend on actual living expenses, these athletes spend a small amount allowing them to essentially rat-hole the rest to spend on personal expenses, whatever those may be.

The first mistake made in this situation is the government’s failure to take into consideration the student athlete’s family’s income or financial aid, which includes the full scholarship. Without these factors weighing on their applications, most athletes qualify for this type of housing even though they clearly aren’t in need of it. All of the major universities reported in this situation provide student housing for those who choose to live on campus. A student has the right to choose to live off campus, but should not qualify for section eight housing where it is offered, period. Playing athletics at the level these athletes do is a mere privilege itself. To live in section eight housing under these circumstances and deny those who really do need it is immoral and completely unfair.

It is not the university’s fault that these students have found an obvious loophole in the system. But shouldn’t the university, after being aware of the situation, be accountable and discourage such actions by its students?
I don’t believe a university can tell someone where to live but if you can’t stop them, distribute a formal opinion on the matter.

Some believe that the students have every right to live in these housing areas. Some people don’t realize that these students are given enough money in their stipend to afford rent with other roommates (most of them live in threes or fours), and still have plenty of money for living expenses and personal use. In fact, I know someone who receives $750 per month in a stipend.

As one person on the show said, “If they aren’t using the money for living expenses like they are supposed to, then what are they using it for?”

Steven Falls, a senior communications major, is sports editor for the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at fallss@ulv.edu.