By Katie Zeck
Students who moved off campus this semester may have a few extra dollars in their pockets, but all this extra change has tightened Rider’s purse strings as the university now faces a $2.6 million “structural gap” in its budget.
Vice President of Enrollment Management Jamie O’Hara said the university expected that 2,450 students would live on campus for the 2012-13 academic year. As of Sept. 21, the end of the add/drop period, a total of 118 students who sent in their housing deposits in the spring decided to not live on campus. This brought the amount of students living on campus this semester to 2,332 — 120 students less than the 2,452 students who lived on campus last fall.
“The housing office always has a percentage of students who decide not to live on campus right before the semester begins,” O’Hara said. “However, this year the number was significantly larger. This increase in the number of continuing students who decided not to live in residence, in addition to the shortfall of new student enrollments, are the two major factors that caused the occupancy decline in housing.”
Junior public relations major Katie Monti was just like any other sophomore when it came time for room selection in spring 2012. She and her suitemates were hoping to continue to live in some form of premium housing for the upcoming year and their hopes were high. They thought that because they were rising juniors, they would have a good chance at being accepted for premium housing. Monti and her roommates made sure their deposits were in and their applications were filled out, even earlier than the March 1 deadline, she recalls.
A week or so later the tweets and Facebook statuses started rolling in with the excited feelings of Monti’s fellow classmates as they received their email of approval for premium housing. Monti and her roommates received no such email.
“Our email said we were denied because someone did not pay their deposit, But we all had printed receipts” Monti explained. “We showed them to [Residence Life], but [they] claimed to have made a mistake and put us on the waiting list. It was then that we decided to look for other housing options off campus because we did not want to go from living in premium housing to the standard dorms as juniors. We did the math and the numbers are significantly different for living off campus. We are saving over $10,000 by moving off campus.”
Other students have opted to move off campus even prior to submitting the housing deposit because of the added cost for premium housing.
“I knew I wanted to live in a more spacious environment than the standard double,” said junior elementary education major Katie Freier. “But I also knew that I could never afford to pay the room and board that came with premium housing. My friends and I began looking around online and in the newspaper and we found a house just two minutes from campus that would cost $2,000 less than living in premium housing for a whole semester.”
Freier lives with six roommates. Her rent is $458 a month without utilities. For the fall semester, she will pay $1,832 to live two miles away from Rider — a grand total of exactly $2,053 in savings.
It costs $3,885 per semester to live in a standard double at Rider. This includes a mandatory meal plan. The cost for housing increases depending on the type of premium housing ranging from the lowest form, a standard double with air conditioning which is $4,240 a semester, to the most expensive, a single suite in West Village for $5,030.
However, not every upperclassman chooses to move off campus.
“It was definitely worth spending the extra money to live in West Village,” said junior elementary education major Arianna Mattera. “Even though it’s expensive I have a bigger room, air conditioning and my own washer and dryer. Even though it’s a far walk from the rest of campus, it is still on campus, and that was important to me.”
According to Provost Don Steven, O’Hara and Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Julie Karns, the usual staff process of removing students who paid housing deposits, but later decided not to live in campus housing, did not happen in a timely manner. The group said that procedures have been put into place to ensure this analysis and removal process happens earlier in the summer.
Director of Financial Aid Dennis Levy said that this process is centralized and handled primarily by Residence Life.
“The office of Financial Aid is notified whenever students are removed from campus housing,” he said. “Housing changes occur throughout the cycle, with the bulk happening just before or during the first week of each semester.”
Contact this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org