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The Financial Aid Office announced changes to the on-campus summer storage program for low-income students in an email on Wednesday, April 10. Students with an expected family contribution of $7,000 or less may now store five items—such as boxes, suitcases, mini-fridges, and microwaves—over the summer at 243 Long Ln. The Office of Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Student Life Committee (SLC), as well as the First-Generation, Low-Income (FGLI) Advisory Board, has worked to expand the amount of storage space available, improve transportation to and from the storage facility, and increase the number of days available for students to drop off and pick up their belongings from the storage facility.

The initial iteration of the storage program was met with both enthusiasm and criticism when it began in the summer of 2023. Low-income students often struggle to pay for private storage, sometimes turning to friends, professors, and work supervisors to ask for space to store belongings. 

The program addressed this issue—but only in part. Eligible students were limited to three items, and international students in particular struggled to meet this restriction. Some had to get rid of their belongings or seek help from others. Many students encountered difficulties transporting their items, with a number of participants in the program reporting long wait times—some over an hour—for a University shuttle to bring them to the storage facility. An article published in The Argus last December drew attention to these issues.

“Last year we piloted the program for the first time and Physical Plant made some limited space available to us up at Long Lane,” Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley said. “There were some limitations to it because we had finite space…. It’s a process of learning our way into it. I mean, we’re not a storage company. We’re not used to doing this kind of thing, so we learned a lot last year.”

Physical Plant has cleared out more space at 243 Long Ln. this year, which has allowed the Office of Student Affairs to increase the item limit. The building, which is a former residence hall for the Long Lane school, was bought by the University in 2000 after the school closed down in 1998, and is now used for University storage.

“We only had, I think, four or six rooms last time,” Whaley said. “This time we’ll have double that. Physical Plant was using the other rooms; they’re in the process of clearing for us [the] other things they were storing. They did an audit of the usefulness of those things and decided that a lot of that stuff could be either thrown out or donated.”

In response to student feedback, the Office of Student Affairs is making the most of the storage space that they have by communicating with students about how much space is left and providing them with opportunities to store more items if extra space is available.

“We also have a system in place, if we get to the end of those days where we’re putting stuff in storage and it looks like we have a lot of room left, we can reach back out to some students who said that they have more than five items and offer them some additional capacity,” Whaley said. 

Students expressed concerns last semester that the summer storage program had not initially specified when items would be available for pickup from storage. As a result, some students who returned to campus after the date for pickup were not able to obtain their items for the first week of classes, which especially affected international students who could not reschedule flights.

This year, the Office of Student Affairs has published a timetable for shuttles in advance. Shuttles are scheduled to run between the storage facility and residence halls from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Wednesday, May 15 through Saturday, May 18 for drop-off, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, August 30 and Saturday, August 31 for pick-up. However, these times may change depending on demand.

“We are currently looking at pick-up locations at WesShop, [Nicolson]/Hewitt, Butterfields, and High/Low [Rise],” SLC Vice Chair and FGLI Advisory Board member Paul Quach ’26 wrote in the WSA committee reports for Sunday, April 7. “All is to be finalized with the [Transportation and Fleet Operations Manager Melissa DiMarco].”

According to Whaley, shuttles were delayed last year because the drivers had to wait for students to unload and move all of their belongings into the storage building. This year, the shuttles will leave 243 Long Ln. as soon as students have unloaded their belongings, instead of waiting for students to move their five items.

“That way, we think it’ll be much more efficient, both for shuttles [and] it’ll be less time-consuming for students,” Whaley said.

Last summer, students who encountered problems—such as shuttles that never arrived—were unable to reach Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs Jill Mattus. Although Mattus was the primary contact for the storage program, she was at the storage facility during the drop-off and pick-up hours and, as a result, was unable to pick up the phone at the Office of Student Affairs or answer emails, according to Whaley.

This year, a communications coordinator will keep track of the shuttles and answer questions from students. The coordinator will also be able to inform students of any shuttle delays. Additionally, hand trucks will be rented to help move items between dorms and the shuttle and between the shuttle and the storage facility.

“Thanks to feedback from the FGLI Board, from WSA, and from students who used the program last year, I think we have a better transportation plan that will be easier for students storing things and more efficient for the drivers and so forth,” Whaley said. 

The program has also been adjusted to function as a year-round storage space instead of just during the summer.

“If students who are here now will be abroad in the fall, they’ll be able to store things for the summer,” Whaley said. “And then for the fall semester, we also have been reaching out to students. For example, this last year in December, we reached out to students who would be abroad this semester so that they could store items there as well ’cause we realize that there’s a need not just during the summer.”

According to Director of Financial Aid Jen Duncan, approximately 400 students are eligible to store items on campus over the summer. This number is based on the monetary threshold for eligibility for Federal Pell Grants: a parent contribution of $7,000 or less. However, students who meet this threshold but not other criteria for Federal Pell Grants are also included in the storage program. 

“We have highly aided populations (DACA/undocumented, international) that do not qualify for federal aid due to citizenship status, and by simply using the Pell Grant as a metric, they would not qualify for these initiatives,” Director of Financial Aid Jen Duncan wrote in an email to The Argus. “[T]o ensure our affordability initiatives were appropriately aligned with how we provide aid at the institutional level, we chose to ignore the Pell indicator and broadly apply the [parental contribution] of $7,000 or less.”

The storage facility at 243 Long Ln. is about a 26-minute walk from Usdan University Center. Physical Plant decided to use the building for storage because of its size and layout, despite its distance from the center of campus.

“The Long Lane property…was selected for student and other University storage because it’s large, in good condition, easily accessed, and because the former dormitory rooms are easily secured and labelled,” Director of Construction Joe Banks wrote in an email to The Argus. 

Quach emphasized that there is still more work to be done on the storage program.

“There is still so much more we can do to improve the program, but it also comes with the understanding that we have to continually access the program after each ‘run,’” Quach wrote in an email to The Argus.

Quach emphasized that summer storage is only one of many projects that the SLC is working on. The SLC also approved other summer projects such as transitional support for high-need international students, break shuttle transportation, and funding for First Things First, an orientation program for FGLI students. Additionally, support programs for students on campus over winter break included full aid for Winter Session courses and expanded meal plans for students on campus at that time. Other projects targeted increasing the FGLI Advisory Board emergency fund from $20,000 to $30,000 and supporting costs for high-need optional practical training (OPT), which allows international students on F-1 visas to pursue summer internships.

“The only thing not approved was the Support for family members for Family Weekend and Commencement,” Quach wrote in an email to The Argus. “However, I also want to note that there were 5 million dollars in requests and the budget was about [$]200,000 for new projects!”

 

Caleb Henning can be reached at chenning@wesleyan.edu.

Elias Mansell can be reached at emansell@wesleyan.edu.

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