When I packed for college before my freshman year, I made sure to have plenty of quarters for laundry. Unfortunately, those quarters were gone before I knew it, and the remainder of the year became a battle with the cash-to-card machines in Paresky and Mission, which always seemed to be out of order. This summer, I helped my brother pack for his first year at Sewanee. He didn’t need any quarters because students at Sewanee enjoy free laundry. This luxury is not unique to Sewanee; free laundry is a growing trend on other college campuses that can save the average student roughly $70 each year.
At the College, students generally have the option to spend little to no money. We can easily avoid shopping expenses and gas expenses because students spend most of their time on campus. However, there is one expense that none of us can avoid: the price of laundry. Doing laundry is my largest single on-campus expense, and the 70 or so dollars I spend on laundry each year is no joke. That’s the same as the cost of my travel home to New Jersey.
Apart from the hit to students’ wallets, the high price of laundry affects student attitudes toward washing their clothes. Most students wait until they have enough laundry to completely fill a washing machine before washing their clothes because they want to save as much money as possible. Frequently, the last clean pair of underwear is the cue to wash, more out of necessity than desire. At colleges with free laundry, students can afford to wash their clothes more frequently if they want to. This means more hygienic washing habits and less stress about running out of clean clothes and linen.
Our laundry expenses are currently higher than they should be, and this places a financial burden on students. At the College, putting a load of laundry through the washer and dryer costs us $2.50. Calculating the actual costs of doing a single load of laundry, based on the cost of water and electricity, the actual price comes out closer to 50 cents per load, a far more reasonable price. In effect, students are spending about $55 more each year on laundry than we should be spending.
At the actual price of 50 cents per load of laundry, students can do one load of laundry per week for only $14 each year. The cost of one load of laundry per week per student would come to about $24,000, or less than half the price of a Macklemore concert, to put it in more tangible terms. Unlike a concert, free laundry benefits all students equally because we all need to wash our clothes. Doing laundry is the bane of every college student’s existence, but eliminating the issue of price would lessen some of the burden.
Free laundry is a realistic goal for Williams. We already have a system that links the laundry machines to our student ID cards, so students could swipe for laundry the same way they swipe for meals in the dining halls. This eliminates the problem presented by broken cash-to-card machines and rolls of quarters that always run out too quickly. I think it would be worthwhile to look into funding for free laundry. We have so many resources, and laundry could definitely be more of a priority in terms of funding. By prioritizing laundry, all students directly benefit. This is a more equitable use of money than other uses, which cater to specific interest groups, because there are no students on campus who do not wash their clothes (I hope!).
Veronica Gould ’15 is from Ewing, N.J. She lives in Gladden.