An Alternative to Dorm Life


Ok, so the cost of a college degree has been increasing steadily, resulting in students being creative to make ends meet.

In the extreme, Duke University graduate student Ken Ilgunas scores one for innovation:


Even by starving grad student standards, Duke student Ken Ilgunas’ campus housing is humble. It is, however, mobile.

Ilgunas, 26, is shacking up in a 1994 Ford Econoline as a means of getting through his liberal studies graduate program without debt.

His vehicle parked in a lot on the edge of campus, he cooks with camping equipment and subsists largely on peanut butter.

Ilgunas, who grew up in Niagara Falls, N.Y., doesn’t think he’s really roughing it. He showers and exercises in the campus gym and knows all the 24-hour buildings where he can keep warm, dry and connected to the Internet.

“I’m rarely in the van. Just to eat and sleep,” he said. “Generally it’s not the most convenient place. The closest bathroom is a quarter mile away, and there’s no source of water nearby. But with that said, I live pretty comfortably. I bring a water jug to campus and fill it up.”

Ilgunas isn’t doing this out of necessity. Rather, it’s a self-test of sorts prompted by the $32,000 in debt he was left with after getting his undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo, a state university in New York.

He paid that debt off working full time for 2½ years, and he swore never to be similarly saddled again...
It is not clear from the article if Ilgunas' van is parked on university property or not.

If he is parked on city or private property, I doubt that persons responsible would be very excited about having a permanent resident of that nature.

From the university's perspective, though there's not a rule forbidding a "house on wheels" on Duke property yet, I am quite sure the administration will pass something applicable soon.

Once officials realize that they are missing out on revenue (he is residing there), there are sanitary issues (no housing inspections and I am sure the guy does not walk ten minutes round trip to use a restroom at 3 am), as well as the added complexity of providing safety to a student sleeping in the backseat of a vehicle, they will want to ban such a practice on campus.

I do admire the guy's sacrifice to avoid debt.

At least, when he invites a friend over for an evening of pizza and a movie, he does not have to waste time in asking: "Your place or mine?"

Instead he can just offer: "Why don't we make it your dorm and I'll bring the peanut butter sandwiches..."

Note: Photo was used from here.

18 comments:

angelcel said...

Very resourceful but now that word is out there could be a small shanty town of students in vans developing there (and at other universities). As you say, now that he has been noticed I expect the authorities will soon put a stop to it.

Erin said...

Ha! But is the van down by the river?

Also, I wish ed. institutions would look at this and realize how exorbitant costs are for students.

terri said...

I can understand this guy's need to be so frugal. I work in student loans and often wonder how students will ever manage to pay off the educational debt they've amassed.

Abigail said...

I think this student is very innovative. Sadly, it will all probably come to an end now that the word is getting out. Personally, so long as no crimes are taking place, I think it should be allowed.

J. J. in Phila said...

Good way to spend money, and the sewers won't back up into the basement. :)

J. J.

LOUD n PROUD said...

some people just gotta do what they gotta do!LOL
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
F.Y.I My word verification,not very nice!

torn blazer said...

Maybe they should consider having a van park with facilities next to the Uni and provide affordable "housing"

Javajune said...

Awesome, it reminds me of the little story I told on my blog today- making the most of what you have. Stop by for a new years wish and a funny story.
xo-jj

JennyMac said...

The other things that go on there can be overlooked but this...not to be tolerated? WOW.

And I simply must make a Matt Foley joke here.

mrs. fuzz said...

Occasionally, there are students like this discovered at our local university and they can keep doing what they are doing as long as they aren't parked on campus overnight. Seriously can't blame people who do it. It would make dating difficult though. And to echo Erin, it would be great if education were more affordable. Even after scholarships and other ways of getting tuition covered, the cost is still excessive.

thewarriorpoets said...

Most interesting to me would be know the impact on his romantic life.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I also prefer to have little or no debt. But I'm with the warrior poet on this one. What in the heck kind of lifestyle is this?

We have a guy like this in our condo, he is the one who lives for days on everybody's leftover doughnuts. He's not poor: it's a choice.

Ann T.

James (SeattleDad) said...

He will probably have a paid off house by the time he is 30 too.

jaymiethorne said...

I wonder if hubby would agree to live in a van so that I could go back for my masters...hmmm...I think I'll ask him before the first cup of coffee tomorrow. :-)

Luisa Doraz said...

You know, there are smart people in this world! I love it! I enjoy your posts. You have a keen attitude on life. I have added you to my blogroll, OK with ya? :)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the feedback all.

@ Erin and JennyMac: It two astute commenters for me to catch the SL reference--duh. Matt Foley: too funny.

@ Luisa: I appreciate the kind words and please feel free to add me. I hope you have recovered from your holiday trip.

Kristin said...

He's certainly innovative. I don't think I could deal with the bathroom a quarter mile away though. Ah ha ha

Dan said...

Have to agree - the university will soon have regs to prohibit. If for no other reason than to protect against the lawsuits sure to happen the first time something goes wrong.