New housing policies, prices try to appeal to upperclassmen
Anitra Herron was looking forward to living on-campus after her freshman year, but when it was her turn to sign up for on-campus housing through the VCU housing lottery, there were no rooms left. Herron had missed out because she had been assigned a late slot.
“I was kind of discouraged that I wouldn’t be able to live on campus due to the timing that the lottery was done,” Herron said. “I felt that I didn’t have enough time to look for apartments on campus and find someone that was responsible enough to room with.”
Things ultimately worked out for Herron after she went to the housing office hoping for a cancellation or extra room. She received a spot in Broad and Belvidere for her sophomore year. Now as a junior, Herron is looking to move off campus for the first time since coming to VCU.
University officials are now working to make sure that students don’t find themselves in a situation like Herron did and encouraging upperclassmen to stay on campus.
Curtis Erwin, the executive director of Residential Life and Housing, said the office has received a lot of feedback about housing and the sign-up process from students. He said the department wanted to address those concerns in an effort to keep upperclassmen on campus.
“Having upperclassmen is huge for the success of the freshmen and for the community feel,” Erwin said in an email. “We want our campus environment to be inclusive.”
VCU’s Residential Life and Housing department is in the process of adding a new dorm and has changed some of the procedures in the residence hall sign-up system to make it easier for upperclassmen to live on-campus.
Some students had issues with the way they signed up for rooms, often landing them in a situation where they were living with other students they didn’t want to live with.
Students will now be able to choose more than one roommate with the new pull-in system, where a student selected early in the lottery can sign up a roommate of his or her choosing who may have a higher number in order to fill the unit.
Along with same-room sign up already offered to upperclassmen in residence halls, same building sign up has also been added to the MyHousing portal. Current upperclassmen were able to sign their housing contracts in early January using the MyHousing portal in order to be eligible to for the different sign-up plans. Students are limited to choosing only one of the options available to them in the new system.
Despite these changes to the roommate selection process of housing sign-up, the lottery system remains the same. Students who were eligible for housing after signing their contracts are assigned a number, and then have the opportunity to choose a room based on their number; lower numbers pick first; higher numbers pick later. If a student’s number is not near the beginning of the lottery, students will continue to either wait until it is their turn to pick, be pulled in by someone lower in the lottery or find other living arrangements.
This year there were a total of 5,355 beds available to students in on-campus residence halls. With the addition of West Grace North for the 2013-14 school year, there will be 388 more, totaling 5,743 beds in residence halls across campus. Despite overcrowding in dorms in previous years, Erwin said there will not be overcrowding in the future.
“Almost 80 percent of the freshman live on campus,” Erwin said. VCU Residential Life and Housing aims to provide more housing options to students after freshmen year, according to Erwin. “(The number of upperclassmen returning to on-campus housing decreases) every year, but that’s why we keep looking at how much we should build,” he said.
Residential Life and Housing has also adjusted the price tag of many of the 12-month upperclassmen dorms. Most of the upperclassmen residence halls now fall roughly within the same price range.
Ackell Residence Center and Broad and Belvidere have always been less expensive than Cary and Belvidere, according to Erwin. The department plans to lower the cost of Cary and Belvidere, West Grace South and West Grace North while also raising the rates of Broad and Belvidere and Ackell.
“Now all of our apartments are closer to the same rate than they were before … you can choose based upon location rather than just cost,” Erwin said.
The new prices and policies are already impacting the housing decisions of upcoming sophomores. Freshman Luis Reyes was originally going to live off campus with one other person, but decided to stay on campus to save money.
“Cost was the main thing being looked at, but after looking at places we figured it’s better to stay on campus for another year,” Reyes said in an email. “The benefits of staying on campus (are) that you can easily participate in anything going on at the time, your friends are super close to you, class is a few minutes away so you get more sleep, won’t have to deal with traffic.”
Luis and his roommate plan to live in Ackell next year. They will receive their lottery numbers on March 11. The lottery will begin on March 13.