by Jeff Frankel and Julia Ernst
Sweeping changes are coming down the pike for student housing on the Lawrenceville campus as the result of an increase in the number of students currently living on campus, University officials have announced.
The new plan guarantees housing for next year’s freshmen, sophomores, and first- or second-year transfers who meet the housing deposit deadline, according to Cindy Threatt, director of Residence Life, who spoke at Tuesday’s Lawrenceville SGA Senate meeting.
On-campus housing for students who will be in the junior or senior class next year will be assigned through a lottery system and those not picked will be waitlisted. Current commuters, re-admitted students and rising fifth-year residents who meet deadlines will automatically be waitlisted.
“We have a higher housing demand,” Threatt said. “We found ourselves in new territory.”
The University no longer guarantees housing for four years, administrators said. However, the 54-page admissions booklet used for Fall 2007 still contained the statement “Housing is guaranteed throughout your four years at Rider.”
“We had already printed everything,” said Jamie O’Hara, vice president of enrollment management. “Things change.”
The changes do not sit well with every student.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” sophomore Meaghan McCarthy said. “We were promised four years of housing. Just because they can’t have things built in time doesn’t mean we should be penalized.”
The way the lottery will work should be announced by the end of the month.
The housing deposit due date has been moved up to March 14, and room selection will occur earlier, she said. Room deposits will also double from $100 to a non-refundable $200 unless the student is waitlisted and doesn’t get housing by Sept. 1.
The $100 deposit has not increased in at least 20 years, said Stephanie Polak, associate director of residence life.
Residence Life will also consider special circumstances, like distance away from school, when assigning students from the wait list.
Early projections by administrators indicate 150 students will be waitlisted, according to Associate Dean Jan Friedman-Krupnick.
“We expect between 10 and 59 students not to get housing,” she said.
Also eliminated are “squatter’s rights,” where students have the option of retaining their room for the next school year.
“It’s more fair and appropriate to do so,” Threatt said.
No double-single rooms will be offered and there will be more triple occupancy rooms.
Juniors and seniors on the Princeton campus cannot live on-campus because of limited space and are forced to find alternative housing. No changes are expected in the Princeton housing policy.
The demand for a more efficient housing system comes from an increased number of students staying at Rider. Freshman to sophomore retention increased from 79 to 83 percent, said O’Hara.
“Fall 2006 was the largest class and the largest retention class,” he said. “It was much higher than anticipated.”
Despite the increased demand for housing, the University has become more competitive, admitting fewer students. In Fall 2007, 75 percent of applicants were admitted, compared with 79 percent the previous year.
“The past fall we dropped down by 15 students,” O’Hara said. “Technically you can say we’ve become more competitive.”
O’Hara also discussed the trend of fall to spring retention rates, stating that there is usually a decrease in the number of resident students from the fall to spring semesters.
“For Spring 2008, we’re about 200 students less than we were in the fall,” he said.
Administrators say they will work with waitlisted students to make sure they find housing off-campus.
“We will do everything we can to help all those on the waiting list,” Threatt said. “If you are in that position, you are not in it alone.”
Plans are already in place for new student on-campus housing next to Maurer Gym.
“We have a wonderful new residence hall,” she said. “The plans are in place to open in Fall 2009 with 152 new beds.”
Policies in Greek houses may also be affected by the changes.
“In the event that there are spaces in Greek Houses, we will use them for non-Greek students,” said Threatt.
For students who are looking for housing off campus, the administration has started facilitating more options, including White Pines, the apartment complex located next to Rider.
“White Pines will now allow 20-year-olds with parents co-signing,” said Anthony Campbell, dean of students. In the past, only students 21 or older were allowed to lease with the complex.
Some feel that current sophomores and juniors should be grandfathered in and wait for the incoming class of 2012 to start making changes.
“When I was applying to Rider, they said they would be guaranteeing housing for four years,” said sophomore Paul Gasior. “Now they are changing their story.”
Others have concerns about how they would get to campus if they draw the short-end of the straw in the lottery.
“I don’t have a car on campus, so I can’t live off-campus,” sophomore Dan Dunn said. “If it is not guaranteed housing, I’ll probably have to transfer.”
Off-campus housing information sessions will be Wednesday, March 5, at 7 p.m., in Lawrenceville and Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m., on the Princeton campus, both at locations to be determined.