By Steph Mostaccio
Guaranteed housing policies across colleges and universities are usually fairly consistent, according to Eric Range, resident director for Housing and Operations at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU).
However, Rider officials announced at last week’s SGA meeting that they were considering changing the University’s guaranteed housing policy. Under the current plan, students are guaranteed housing for four years. The new plan unveiled last week would have only guaranteed housing for freshmen, sophomores and first- or second-year transfers who met the housing deposit deadline.
The proposed plan would have required rising juniors and seniors to participate in a lottery to be housed on campus. Those who were not selected in the lottery would have been waitlisted.
But as a result of the large student response, Rider will not go through with the proposed plan. Instead, it will now guarantee on-campus housing to students who meet the deposit deadline. However, not all students will obtain housing during the room selection process. Those students will be waitlisted for a standard room and placed in triple rooms at a reduced rate.
The revised policy still does not guarantee housing for fifth-year seniors and transfers.
If a college or university were to change its housing policy, it would most likely make the same revisions that Rider would have initially made, according to Range.
“Few universities will go, ‘Well we don’t guarantee it now but we’ll guarantee it next year,’” he said. “If they change the policy, it’s generally the change that Rider just made: They previously guaranteed it to a larger group and now they’re scaling that back.”
According to an e-mail that Cindy Threatt, director of Residence Life, sent to the Rider community on Tuesday, the University wanted to change its housing policy because of its enrollment growth and an increase in the number of students wishing to remain in on-campus housing.
Catherine Bermudez, assistant dean for Residence Life at Widener University, located in Chester, Pa., said Widener is currently experiencing the same trend: more students and limited housing. As a result, administrators are in the process of reviewing the school’s guaranteed housing policy.
Housing at Widener is currently guaranteed for four years. According to Bermudez, the extent of the changes, if any at all, is unknown at this time.
Bermudez added that the number of institutions that guarantee housing for four years will most likely decrease in the future.
“I don’t think a whole lot of schools are going to continue to say that they guarantee it absolutely for all four years because I think their enrollments change,” she said. “It really depends on the institution, but I think that a lot of schools will perhaps mandate it for the first year or the second year.”
Many schools in the area guarantee housing for two years. Marist College, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is one of them. Junior and senior housing is based on a priority point system. Starting freshman year, students have the opportunity to earn points based on various criteria, such as their GPA, participation in various activities, clubs and sports, and their room maintenance.
“If they have really high points, they pretty much get anything they want for housing,” said Sharon Smith, administrative secretary of Housing and Residence Life at Marist. “The lower the points go, the less choices there are when you come in to choose.”
Upperclassmen at Marist who don’t receive housing will be waitlisted if they request it.
At St. Joseph’s University, located in Philadelphia, housing is guaranteed and required for the first two years of residency. Upperclassmen go through a lottery process in which they are randomly selected for the available housing after all first- and second-year students are housed. St. Joseph’s also allocates a certain number of spots as guaranteed housing for transfers. The Admissions Department determines which transfer students are guaranteed those spots.
Chris Heasley, assistant director for Residence Life at St. Joseph’s, said that although he wishes the campus had more housing so he would not have to turn anybody away, the current policy works well.
“I don’t get a lot of student complaints about it,” he said.
A two-year guaranteed housing policy also creates a more tightly integrated community, according to Heasley. Prior to this policy, housing was only guaranteed for freshmen.
“I think there was a disconnect in the leadership on campus,” said Heasley. “The students weren’t feeling as connected to the institution as we would have liked.”
FDU, a school that has not changed its guaranteed housing policy in the past 10 years, still guarantees housing only to freshmen. Upperclassmen housing is based on seniority and also when they apply.
“If you miss a deadline, generally those are the students that get waitlisted,” Range said. “Students who meet all the deadlines generally sail right through the process.”
However, Range noted that with FDU’s current numbers, he has not had to turn anyone away. Nearly all students who are waitlisted are offered housing in the fall because of students choosing to transfer, live off campus or study abroad.
Yet, even when there is an overage at FDU, Grange said the school remains committed to helping students find housing. For example, two years ago the university put 40 students in a nearby hotel to deal with the overage.
Threatt noted in her e-mail that Rider will maintain the same level of commitment.
“Some students may not receive a standard room assignment via the lottery,” she said in the e-mail. “These students will be offered a chance to live in a triple room at a discounted rate and will be placed on a wait list for a standard housing assignment. Waitlisted students who prefer to live off campus will receive assistance from the University to find alternate housing.”