Some students choose to make the transition from residence hall to housing independence by moving into a co-op their
The University Students' Cooperative Association (USCA) at Berkeley is
the largest student housing co-op in North America. Member-owned and operated,
it is comprised of 17 houses and three apartment complexes housing nearly 1,300 students.
Pluses of co-op living include low cost, cooperative control of your
living environment, and choice location of houses.
This semester, room and board in the houses runs $1,992. The apartments
(room only) range from $1,236 to $2,445/semester.
Each co-op is unique in both appearance and ambience. Most of the buildings
are 50-80 years old. Several have hot tubs and spectacular bay views. One
has its own swimming pool. Most have study and recreation areas. Two are
for women only.
All rooms in the apartments are singles, while the houses offer singles,
doubles, and a few triples. All rooms are furnished with the basics; improvement
projects are encouraged.
House membership ranges from 17 to 151. Room assignments are based on
house and USCA seniority. For new members, vacancies are assigned on a first-come,
first-served basis, so it's wise to apply as soon as you think you're interested
in co-op living. Some houses have long waiting lists.
The USCA has long recognized the importance of its role in helping the less
advantaged gain access to a university education and providing support for those of diverse backgrounds. Since the 1970s, many individual co-op houses have adopted specific cultural or ethnic themes to provide synergistic support around that theme. The houses are not exclusive -- anyone may apply and live there -- but provide an opportunity for people with similar backgrounds or views to live in a supportive environment.
In keeping with the USCA's tradition of theme houses, an African American theme co-op opened in 1997 for 22 students and a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender theme co-op, named Wilde House after Oscar Wilde, opened in January, 1999 for 38 students. There is also a vegetarian theme-house called Lothlorien.
Co-ops keep costs low by relying on members to run them. All residents
are required to put in a few hours a week, usually five, to help maintain
their house. Since the apartments do not have meal service, work requirements
there are generally lower-usually six to twelve hours a semester.
Some members work in the Central Office or Central Warehouse doing bookkeeping, clerical work, produce-packing (see left), and truck driving. Each house
has representatives on the Board of Directors and Administrative Committee,
and these positions count toward workshift requirements, too.
All meals are planned, prepared, and served by house members. There's
even an all-vegetarian house. Students generally prepare their own breakfasts
and lunches, while dinner and weekend brunches are served to the house as
a whole. Some of the bigger houses serve three meals on weekdays and two
Snacks and leftovers are always available and kitchens are open 24 hours
a day. All the houses have meal-only plans.
House-level decisions (what sort of food to buy, quiet hours, newspaper
subscriptions) are made by the house councils. USCA-wide policies (budgets
for food, maintenance, education and other programs, membership rules, rent)
are set by the Board of Directors.
As USCA puts it: "The co-ops in Berkeley provide a unique approach
to housing at a reasonable cost. . . The co-op is designed for the open-minded
student who has a sense of adventure. Living in the USCA is an education
in itself and what you learn here will influence you for the rest of your
Says one senior, who spent her freshman year in a residence hall and
her sophomore year in a co-op:
"Co-ops are much cheaper, the locations are good, and you find like-minded
people-liberal people interested in cooperativeness. The food is much better
than the dorms and the social life is good-they're friendly places to live.
You get to choose your roommate, and the longer you stay, the better room
For more information: (510) 848-1936.