FAQ

About OSCA

What Does OSCA Stand For?

OSCA is an acronym for the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association. It is pronounced “AH-skuh”. If you hear people refer to “the co-ops,” they’re probably talking about OSCA.

What is OSCA?

OSCA is a student-owned and student-operated non-profit corporation that provides at-cost housing and dining services to hundreds of students at Oberlin. The corporation is entirely separate from Oberlin College, but all member-owners of OSCA are Oberlin students. Each of the 8 individual OSCA co-ops is responsible for its own day-to-day operations, and together they make up the umbrella organization of OSCA.

Can I Join You for a Meal?

If you know students in OSCA, it’s likely that you’ll get an invitation to a meal. If not, don’t hesitate to ask if you can visit their co-op. Guests are always welcome, and it doesn’t mean any extra work for co-opers, since they’re already cooking for dozens of people. You might want to plan on arriving a little early, so you can get a seat (and a plate) before food is served. Feel free to help out with the dishes afterward! (Many co-ops have a guest policy of 3 meals = work 1 crew.)

I Want to Know More!

If you have questions about OSCA, or you want more information, you can call or visit the OSCA office. In the office you can also browse through the OSCA library, which has lots of information on OSCA as well as other co-operatives.

Is OSCA Student-Run?

When you hear that students run OSCA, it’s not just a slogan. Students do everything: long-term planning, member education, cooking, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, ordering food, planning menus, managing finances, keeping track of membership lists, training new co-opers, and facilitating discussion. Every student who works in OSCA is a user-owner. OSCA does hire five paid staff people: the Financial Manager, Financial Assistant, the Office Intern, Business Coordinator, and the Food Safety Coordinator. These employees are not supervisors. They work with and for OSCA students.

What are OSCA's Office Hours?

If you’re not sure exactly who you want to talk with, contact the OSCA Office between 12:00 and 4 PM, Monday through Thursday in Wilder 406. Or just email office@osca.coop !

What are OSCA’s Projects?

  • Local foods: OSCA has established connections with local farmers. Whenever possible, co-ops purchase food from nearby farms, supporting area farmers rather than agribusiness.

  • Composting: OSCA composts as much food waste as possible.

  • Recycling: OSCA recycles glass, plastics, cardboard, metal, and paper.

  • Environmental Issues: OSCA tries to use environmentally-friendly products whenever possible.

  • Accessibility: OSCA’s Accessibility Committee works to make OSCA more physically, socially, and financially accessible. This has resulted in the chartering of Third-World Co-op and the formation of the time-aid program, as well as the Subcommittee on Privilege and Oppression (COPAO).

  • OSCA rents space to the Bike Co-op, which occupies the east side of Keep Co-op's basement.

  • Loans and Grants: As one of the most financially stable student co-ops in the country, OSCA is able to loan money and give grants to local businesses and other co-ops. OSCA currently supports environmental, community revitalization efforts, other co-ops, and gives grants to non-profit and charitable organizations.

  • Socially Responsible Investing: OSCA invests the majority of our assets in socially responsible funds such as the Kagawa Student Loan fund and credit unions.

What are Programmed Co-ops?

  • Third World Co-op (located in Baldwin, no affiliation to Third World House) is a special interest dining co-op, geared to serve specific needs that the other dining co-ops may not meet. Third World Co-op provides a safe space to people of color, international students, low-income students, and first generation students.

What is OSCA’s Purpose?

  • To establish an organization to promote and develop cooperative living at Oberlin College in accordance with the Rochdale Cooperative principles so long as such activity is not inconsistent with the fundamental principles and policies of Oberlin College.

  • To purchase, lease, enter into contractual arrangements with Oberlin College and/or others, or otherwise acquire facilities for housing and feeding student members attending Oberlin College and to furnish such facilities to student members at actual cost.

  • To buy and otherwise acquire food and other supplies for the rooming, dining, living and studying of student members attending Oberlin College to be sold to them at actual cost.

  • To borrow money and issue, sell, or pledge bonds, promissory notes, or debentures, payable at specified times or payable upon the happening of a specified event or events secured by mortgage, pledge, or otherwise to accomplish the purposes aforesaid.

  • To arrange and provide for the social and cultural enrichment of its members at actual cost.

  • And, in general, to do all things necessary or incidental to fully accomplish the foregoing purposes.

What is OSCA’s Relationship with the College?

OSCA rents its on-campus buildings from the College, so the primary relationship between Oberlin College and OSCA is a tenant- landlord relationship. OSCA works with the College, especially Residential Education and Dining Services, to ensure that both tenant and landlord are upholding the rent contract, which is renegotiated every five years. As a member of the larger Oberlin community, OSCA also takes a large role in the recycling and composting initiatives on campus.

What Makes a Co-operative?

A co-op is a business directly controlled by its members. Members are user-owners; they patronize the business but also own its earnings and assets equally. They control the co-op’s day-to-day operations, its finances, and its mission. OSCA is a housing and dining co-op; other types include food co-ops, housing co-ops, rural electric co-ops, and financial co-ops (credit unions).

What Other Ways Can I Contact OSCA?

Mailing address:

M.P.O. Box 118

Oberlin, OH 44074

Telephone: (440) 775-8108

E-mail: office@osca.coop

Where is OSCA's Office Located?

Wilder Hall

135 W Lorain ST

Oberlin, OH 44074

Finance Office - Room 402

Main Office - Room 406


Membership

How do I join OSCA? (I am a new Oberlin student)

New students must participate in the new student lottery by going to OSCA’s website and filling out the new student application form. The new student lottery is held mid-June every year.

New students may sign up on the waitlist once the school year begins if they do not get into their first-choice co-op during the new student lottery so long as you are a member of OSCA (ie placed into another the time being).

IMPORTANT: In order to get placed off the waitlist as a new student, you MUST fill out a New Student Application!

How do I join OSCA? (I am a returning Oberlin student)

At the start of the Spring semester, students returning to Oberlin fill out an OSCA Upperclass Lottery Form (online) listing all their co-op preferences (as well as checking off OSCA as a preference on the Residential Education housing and dining forms) for the next Fall semester. Each student is assigned a random lottery number, so everyone has an equal chance of getting into a co-op, regardless of seniority. The two exceptions are co-opers holding all-OSCA positions and new students, for whom 100 spaces are saved for the summer new student lottery.

If you do not get into your first choice co-op, you can get on the waitlist for that co-op so long as you are a member of OSCA (ie placed into another the time being)

Can I leave OSCA for CDS?

Yes, the current rent-contract does allow students to leave OSCA throughout the semester, however, students may not opt into OSCA mid-semester outside of the Spring lottery. Students must fill out a Request to Leave OSCA Form in order to have their request processed. Requests will be processed every 2 weeks.

OSCA reserves the right to withhold semester payment to offset dining and housing exemption costs to Oberlin College. Students will be free to withdraw from OSCA dining between semesters without penalty. For further information, please contact our office by emailing osca@osca.coop or calling (440) 775-8108 during our office hours.

I submitted a release request form but I’m still in OSCA! Why?

Due to our rent contract with the college, co-op releases can only be processed on certain days, and become effective by our effective dates. These dates are outlined HERE . We can not make exceptions to this policy!!

I was in “x” co-op over winter term, but now I’m getting emails from another co-op! Which co-op am I in?

Winter term co-ops are separate from semester co-ops, which means that you are likely in whatever co-op you are getting emails from. For example, if you were in Pyle in the Fall, and in Harkness for winter term, you are still in Pyle for the Spring unless you got off the waitlist. If you are confused about what co-op you are in, please email the All-OSCA membership secretary at office@osca.coop.

I’m a part-time student who is not required to have a meal plan. I was in OSCA in the Fall but want to leave, do I still need to fill out a release request form?

YES! (here it is!)

Once I get into OSCA for the Fall, am I in for the year?

Yes, unless you release your co-op assignment !

What happens if I’m going to be away from Oberlin in the Fall? Can I still enter the lottery?

Yes. If you know you will be LOA (leave of absence) for the Fall semester, you still need to sign up for the lottery to obtain a lottery number. Once the lottery is over, remember to put yourself on the Spring semester waitlist no later than Commencement Day (extended deadline for students who will be away) to keep your current lottery number. You do not need to pay a deposit if you will be away Fall semester because OSCA cannot guarantee you a spot for Spring.

What Work Do Co-opers Do?

Each co-op has a workchart to organize the work of all of its members. In dining co-ops, each co-oper does 4-5 hours of volunteer work per week. Some co-opers are elected to positions (such as committee representatives, food buyers, bread bakers, and Directors of the Board), while others sign up for jobs on the workchart (such as cooking, cleaning, chopping vegetables, and soaking beans). Still other co-opers have “all-OSCA” positions, working not for a specific co-op, but for OSCA as a whole (such as the President, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, Operations Manager, and Housing Coordinator). Housing co-ops have a separate workchart that generally involves one hour per week of household chores.

Read more about OSCA positions.

Who Is a Member of OSCA?

~565 Oberlin students—about 20% of campus—are members of OSCA each semester. 183 of these co-opers are in housing co-ops, meaning they eat, sleep, and live in co-ops. Most of our members only dine in OSCA, and live in either a college-run Residence Hall or off-campus.

What if I miss the Spring Lottery or I decide I want to be in OSCA part way through the year?

Unfortunately, the current rent contract does not allow students to join OSCA after the Spring Lottery. You will have to wait until next year.

How will it be determined which co-ops are open each year?

According to OSCA’s Rental agreement with Oberlin College, OSCA is permitted to purchase up to 565 dining and 183 housing units each year. Based on the results from OSCA’s Spring Lottery, the co-ops are “opened” according to demand. This allows for financial flexibility and to best accommodate the interest from our membership year to year.

Waitlist

Can I switch co-ops throughout the year?

Yes! You can join the waitlist (LINK) for another co-op.

Am I still on the waitlist if I got placed into a co-op?

Everyone on the waitlist remains on the waitlist until they get into their first-choice co-op. This means that if you are dining in co-op X because your 1st choice was not available, you will automatically be switched into your 1st choice co-op when a space opens up (unless it is a housing co-op, we first need your consent to place you!). You will be emailed notification of this change. So, if you get into your second, third, fourth, etc. choice dining co-op, and you like it, take yourself off the waitlist to avoid being switched into another co-op. You will only be removed from the wait list if you are assigned to your first choice coop or if you remove yourself from the wait list.

How does the waitlist work?

During the Spring and New Student lottery (two separate lotteries), members are assigned a random lottery number. Those who do not get placed into their first choice co-op can get on the waitlist in lottery number order. Students then get placed into their co-op of preference in waitlist order when vacancies open up in each respective co-op.

I got on the waitlist in the beginning of the semester but still haven’t been placed! Why?

Did you fill out the Fall/Spring wait list confirmation form? If not, you are no longer on the wait list! If you did, it may just be that no vacancies have opened up yet!

If I submit my waitlist entry multiple times will I get off the waitlist faster?

Nope!!

Is there a way to circumvent the waitlist due to accessibility/dietary needs?

Yes, there are ways to switch you between co-ops. Please contact the All-OSCA Membership Secretary or the All-OSCA AccessCo at office@osca.coop for more information.

Is there a way to get off of the waitlist faster?

If you select as many co-op options as possible, there is a higher likelihood you will get off of the waitlist faster. However, it all depends on how full the co-ops are and how many people are leaving.

Contrary to popular belief, expensive gifts and marinated tofu won’t move you up the waitlist any faster. Finding and messaging the All-OSCA Membership Secretary on Facebook also will not help you!

I’ve been on the waitlist for TWC/TWSJ forever!! Why?

To be placed into TWC and/or TWSJ, you must BOTH get on the waitlist and fill out an application. Here is the TWC application and the TWSJ application.

Once you’ve done both those things, your application has to go through a selection committee, which can take a while! If more than two weeks have passed since you’ve filled out the application and added yourself to the waitlist, please email the All-OSCA membership secretary at office@osca.coop so we can make sure both forms were processed!

Additionally, if the co-ops are full, you’ll just have to wait until a vacancy opens up!

What are the odds I will get into a certain co-op?

Popular co-ops have longer waitlists than other co-ops, and different co-ops have differing degrees of membership turnover. Some co-ops will remain at capacity for many weeks, meaning no one is able to join that co-op as long as it's full. If you are further down the waitlist, you may not get into your desired co-op until the following semester. To find out your position on the waitlist, as well as your likelihood of joining a certain co-op, email osca@oberlin.edu

When will I get off the waitlist?

If you are at the top of the waitlist for one of the co-ops you listed as a preference, changes occur on Wednesday change dates throughout the semester. When you are switched into a desired co-op, your change will be processed on the next Wednesday change date, and you will be notified by email two days later, on Friday. Your change will become effective and you may begin dining in your new co-op assignment on the following Monday.

Finances

Do I get the $75 advance deposit back?

No. It’s applied to your Fall semester bill unless you notify OSCA by August 1st that you will not be in OSCA for the Fall.

Do Students Save Money by Being in OSCA?

OSCA charges less than the College-run programs for both housing and dining. Most underclass students are required to live on campus, and almost all students eat on campus. Because we are student-operated and at-cost, a student eating in OSCA instead of in Campus Dining Services saves thousands of dollars per year. Additionally students save even more if they live in OSCA.

Additionally, OSCA’s sister organization, OSCA Foundation, has a scholarship program, through which members of OSCA can have a third of their board bill subsidized by OF.

Read more about OSCA costs.

How much do I save by being in OSCA?

About $2,000 if you dine in OSCA, and an additional about $500 if you live in OSCA! Compare our costs with the advertised prices of Oberlin College housing and dining. The final savings depends on the year-end refunds or bills (based on co-op spending).

Will my financial aid be reduced if I’m in OSCA?

How much is my OSCA bill?

OSCA offers significant savings over regular campus dining and housing. At the end of each financial year, any leftover money is refunded to the membership. Click here for more information about current OSCA costs.

I’m waiting on loans and scholarships to pay my semester bill. What do I do?

Be aware that loans and scholarships are applied directly to your account at the Oberlin College’s Office of Student Accounts. If you are in a co-op, your College account will have surplus funds because you are billed directly by OSCA. You will need to request a credit refund from the Student Accounts Office in 25 Carnegie Hall. If the loans or scholarships will not be available until after the due date of your OSCA bill, you will also need to notify or talk to the OSCA Treasurer. Note that your College account credit refund check will be made out directly to you, so you will need to stop by the OSCA office and endorse your check over to OSCA.

What happens if I can’t make a payment?

OSCA offers payment plans, and the OSCA Foundation offers Financial Need Scholarships allocated at $500 and $1,000 award amounts. Tell the Treasurer in advance to discuss options. If a member has neither paid their semester bill nor notified OSCA within 30 days after the due date, the expulsion procedures will begin. If you are expelled, you cannot join OSCA until overdue balance is paid. If you have a remaining balance in your account, your name may be turned over to a collection agency.

When will I get my annual refund? How big will it be?

Assuming your co-op stayed under budget throughout the fiscal year, you will receive a refund check after the end of the prior year fiscal year (June 30th), likely in late October or early November. The size depends on how well your individual co-op managed their money. Over the past couple of years, they have ranged from a $400 check for members of some co-ops to an $80 bill for others.