Housing conditions across Cornell’s campus vary wildly. From decades-old dorms without air conditioning to brand-new buildings with modern amenities, students’ dorm experiences are anything but standard. Only one thing remains constant: the cost.
Some students, like Ramisha Hossain ’25, live in the newly-constructed Ganędagǫ Hall. Complete with large study areas, suite-style dorming and air conditioning in all rooms, Ganędagǫ and Toni Morrison Hall are the most modern dorms on campus.
Others, including Eli Forman ’25, live in older buildings such as Mary Donlon Hall. Donlon lacks air conditioning, low occupancy bathrooms and modern common rooms. And for first-year and transfer students, there is no choice involved in the dorm assignments.
“At my previous school, if a dorm was nicer, it would be more expensive,” said Natalie Rosenberg ’24, a transfer student. “I think that’s how it should be at every school.”
Rosenberg lives in the music-based program house Just About Music, which she didn’t choose. In addition to not being interested in music, she said she felt left out from the majority of sophomores who live on West Campus — especially considering the quality of living is not equal to West Campus residence halls.
Jonathan Duvao ’25 lives in High Rise 5 and he said while he enjoys the people in his dorm, he finds the furniture “outdated” and “dirty.” When told that the price of his single is the same as a single in the new dormitories, Duvao was shocked.
“There definitely should be [a price difference],” he said. “I think it should be cheaper in High Rise 5 because we don’t have AC, the bathrooms are lower quality and the rooms are much nicer in the new dorms.”
Forman, however, speculated that higher prices for the newer dorms would lead to more inequality within the student body: “What would happen is that the people who could afford it would end up all [in the new dorms],” he said, “and that would create a weird social environment.”
Student and Campus Life staff assign housing for first-years and transfers, and accepted students can indicate their preference for a program house or residence hall, as well as their favored room style (single, double, triple or quad). But housing does not guarantee meeting these guidelines.
Even though singles cost $11,281 in any dorm across campus, some program houses have fees, even if students do not choose to live there or participate in house activities or resources. JAM’s $70 yearly fee was one part of Rosenberg’s frustration.
Some students, like Meg Pardee ’25, were surprised by their random dorm assignments, but found later appreciation for them.
Pardee lives in Holland International Living Center, a program house for students with an international focus, where she has met students from across the world. She was also placed in a triple, which was not her first choice of room style.
But Pardee expressed that equal housing rates across residence halls and program houses are fair.
“I don’t think that people should be paying less just because they happen to be placed in an older dorm,” Pardee said.
Christina Simon ’24 is a sophomore transfer student living on West Campus in the gothic dormitory Founders Hall. Without air conditioning, large study rooms or in-building laundry, the gothic dorms are, among students, considered worse than their Main House counterparts on West Campus.
The biggest complaint Simon has about living in the gothics was the lack of air conditioning, especially since the Main Houses have air conditioning in all common spaces.
“It would have been really nice if we had air conditioning because it was extremely hot the first week here. We actually have four fans in our room right now,” Simon said. “[But] I didn’t have any expectations. I would have been happy with any dorm on West Campus. I like the location, besides having to walk up the slope to get to class.”
Students on North Campus have found both positives and negatives regardless of their dorm’s amenities: Hossain expressed that Ganędagǫ residents keep their doors closed, which makes it harder to meet new floormates, and Forman said that Donlon’s vibrant social life makes up for the lack of amenities.
“It is very fun and social,” Forman said. “People leave their doors open which is a positive that outweighs the shininess and newness of Ganędagǫ.”
Through the drastic differences among dorm conditions, starting this semester, all first-year and transfer students are required to live on campus through the spring semester of their second year of enrollment — a change that came with the North Campus Residential Expansion.
“You live wherever you live,” Pardee said. “You don’t really get a choice so I think people should be happy with what they get.”