In a move to reduce some of the hassles and headaches of residential life, the Office of Student Engagement recently began a partnership with a microfridge rental company to offer microfridge rentals to students living on campus.
Beginning with the announcement “MOVE-IN day just got MUCH EASIER,”, the Office of Student Engagement’s page on the college website explains that the college established a partnership with MyMicroFridge, a fridge rental company, in the Fall 2016 semester that will continue into the foreseeable future. The page emphasizes that students must contact MyMicroFridge directly to set up a rental and includes a direct link to the company’s website. MyMicroFridge is a part of Campus Specialties, Inc., a company based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. The company serves a substantial number of colleges and universities on the East Coast, including Temple University, Villanova University, Bowdoin College, and three University of North Carolina campuses.
The MyMicroFridge website indicates that Swarthmore students can either rent a microfridge for $199.99 per year or purchase one for $549.00. The microfridges feature a two-door refrigerator/freezer unit and a 0.6 cubic feet, 600-watt microwave oven with touchpad controls, thus the portmanteau “microfridge.” The website also boasts that the microfridge units are Energy Star rated, supposedly meaning they use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. In documents provided by Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano, it is explained that the sustainable nature of these microfridges is dye to their use of R600a (otherwise known as isobutane) as their primary refrigerant, instead of other common compounds used like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). According to thinkglobalgreen.org, both CFCs and HFCs are dangerous to the environment because of their contributions to global warming as greenhouse gases. Alternatively, R600a is a type of compound that is naturally occurring, low-GWP, non-toxic, low-cost fluids, whose environmental effects are fully understood, according to hydrocarbons21.com, an industry platform for hydrocarbon cooling and heating experts. According to the documents provided by Coschignano, end consumers save about 15 percent in energy costs when using fridges that use R600a as a refrigerant. It is important to note that students at the college do not directly pay for energy costs, and so would not directly see these energy savings in their tuition or room and board costs.
The company’s website states that microfridges can be ordered in advance of three separate delivery dates — all of which have currently passed — either August 12, August 25, or September 7. The website also cautions that orders received after August 10th would be subject to a $40 late fee.
Contrary to popular belief, Coschigano said that the microfridge rental program was not restricted to first year students in its initial rollout. He believed that a message was sent out to each of the class years at the college, and worked through the Office of Student Engagement to advertise the new partnership.
“I thought it was being marketed to everybody,” Coschigano said. He did stress that his office was pushing particularly hard for first years to sign up for the rental program, because a large number of upperclassmen already had purchased fridges. In addition, he did not want to send a message that his office did not want students bringing back their previously purchased fridges.
Coschigano said that thirty students have signed up for the program at the time of printing.
“We really just wanted to see if students had an interest in the program. It really was just an add-on program, just something that we thought could be useful, [could] benefit students.”
Coschigano stressed that many of the changes in student services, including the new microfridge rental program, are designed to make students’ lives more convenient. He mentioned that he would like more students to participate in the program in the future, but there is currently no specific incentive from the college to increase the number of microfridge rentals.
The student reception to the new program has been generally positive. Alex Frost ’20, a student who rented a microfridge with her roommate, said the rental process was easy.
“Basically, I just put in my dorm information, like [my] room number and dorm online, and paid online. Then, on a date, they told me the fridge was going to come, [and] someone showed up at my dorm room door and had the fridge,” she said. Frost thought the cost was reasonable, especially considering that she split the cost with her roommate.
However, not all students felt the cost of the microfridge was reasonable. Ashley Mbah ’19 thought the steep rental price was not worth it, even though she recognized that the hassle of transportation was removed.
“I feel like it might appeal to wealthier students, but I don’t think this is a great idea considering the college already has fridges in every dorm as well,” Mbah said.
Bolu Fakoya ’17, who purchased a fridge himself at Target, did not think that he would rent a microfridge if he were a first year.
“[I] experienced a storage issue over the summer because there was no way I could take [the fridge] back home with me, so I can see why some folks would go for it for the rental aspect. But not personally for me,” he said.
It remains to be seen if the number of students renting microfridges will increase in future semesters.