Borough Will See Proposal To Remove ‘Student’ Zoning Label From Grad Students

The State College Borough Council will see a proposal tonight that hopes to exempt graduate students from being zoned as students in State College. Currently, students are not permitted to live in certain residential zoning districts because the borough is concerned that the immature ways of college students would disrupt the community and families living there. This proposal, however, would allow the typically calmer, more professional graduate student population to live among those groups.

The definition of a “student” was determined by the borough in 1997, when the current student home ordinance went into affect. Students are only allowed to live in certain areas of State College. While that does include a lot of downtown apartments, graduate students with families are not quite as interested in living in buildings like the Meridian and Penn Towers. Though it’s been brought up that graduate students shouldn’t be considered students in the eyes of the borough in the past, the motion for a new home ordinance was denied. According to the borough at that time, graduate students did not “meet the need” for long-term residency of the State College neighborhoods.

The newest proposal argues that graduate students, in fact, are the perfect candidates for long-term residency in borough neighborhoods. For one, graduate students are mature enough to not cause nuisances in the borough neighborhoods. According to Penn State’s Graduate School, the average age for a graduate is 24-29. That age range places grad students more along the lines of a young professional in age and maturity than a college student. The older age of the grad students correlates to lower crime and nuisance violations with the borough, which is what State College is trying to avoid be keeping the community and Penn State students separate.

The proposal provides statistics and survey results to show that, of the graduate students living in State College, 40.6 percent are living with a significant other, with 26.3 percent having a spouse, and seven percent are living in their household with children. This is in line with the national trend for the age group, and families with children shouldn’t have to be restricted to the same living conditions as college kids.

The second point is that the longevity of graduate students living in the community is longer than the average professional. The median time for a PhD student to complete their degree is five years. During that time, graduate students are likely to remain in the same home or neighborhood. Those five years are longer than the national average for employees staying at their job, meaning that the nature of the graduate programs would keep the students in the area longer than a regular job.

The proposal additionally argues that the income of the average graduate student at Penn State is higher than the minimum wage for young, working professionals in the State College community. The proposal reports that, on average, those enrolled in a PhD program receive a 10-month stipend of $18,500. Similarly, the average 12-month stipend is $22,450 for grad students. These stipends are more than any average undergraduate student is pulling in, and the taxes that graduate students pay are more aligned to members of the community than undergraduate students.

The proposal also included a number of anecdotes in which graduate students expressed their dissatisfaction with the noise of living the undergraduate sections in State College. Additionally, most graduate students are focused on their careers, meaning they act more like professionals than undergraduate students. Furthermore, these graduate students would be more interested in housing that reflects this distinction, something that the current “student” label prohibits.

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Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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