Housing Crunch: Grad Students Face a Tough Housing Market with Few University Funds

When Robert O. Krikorian says "We're not asking for a handout, we're not asking for a free ride. We just want some help," his plea may sound familiar to Cambridge residents accustomed to ducking the homeless in Harvard Square.

But Krikorian is not living on the streets just outside Harvard's gates; he is a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, with a dissertation in the works and office space at 6 Divinity Ave.

As co-president of the Graduate Student Council, Krikorian picks up the patois as he recounts the housing woes of students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).

According to a study released last Thursday by the Massachusetts Office of Administration and Finance, state housing costs are rising at a rate twice the national average, and the housing squeeze is particularly tight in Cambridge and Boston.

Since rent control and eviction protections laws were dropped in 1996, prices in a free market have soared far beyond the reach of many residents, creating a smaller crisis among GSAS students who must survive through the five or six years it typically takes to complete their dissertations. They live on University stipends in the pricey world of Cambridge and Somerville housing.

As the growing costs of living near work begin to tax the budgets of graduate students, many student leaders say the consequences for Harvard may be broad, even extending to the quality of undergraduate education.

Housing Options

Graduate students have three options if they want to live near campus. They can accept on-campus housing and live in one of four dorms. Alternately, they can rent Harvard-affiliated apartments. Or they can try their hand in the private real estate market.

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