Housing applications drop after withdrawal fee increases

On-campus housing applications dropped slightly this year, likely the result of harsher penalties for cancelling assignments.

The more-than 200-student dip in iHousing applications represents interest from fewer juniors, Director of Housing Programs Seth Weinshel said.

“The drop is mostly in juniors, which we anticipated and were prepared for,” Weinshel said, referring to the disincentive created by new fees for students who withdraw from their assignments.

In past years, about 150 students who received their first-choice assignments ultimately opted not to live on-campus, Weinshel said. He hopes the decrease in applications came mainly from this pool of students.

“We were hoping that we were just going to take those people right out of there, and I think we did that,” he said.

This year, fines for cancelling housing rose to $350 in the first five days after receiving an assignment, and to $700 within the first month. In the past, housing has offered a penalty-free five-day window and a $350 fine thereafter.

Students may cancel their applications without incurring a fee before they are given an assignment.

Weinshel said the fee serves as a disincentive for students who apply to housing just “to see what they can get,” not as a way to bring in revenue.

“I’m hoping that honestly nobody pays the fee,” he said. “The fee is solely a deterrent.”

Weinshel estimated that the decrease in overall applications would mean a more manageable waitlist of 400 to 500 students. Last year’s tally of students who didn’t immediately receive on-campus assignments topped 700.

The waitlist will be created after third and fourth year assignments are handed out March 28.

Weinshel said a shorter waitlist means the University would be able to place students who did not receive assignments within about five weeks, compared to the eight weeks that it took last year.

The waitlisted applicants fill spots that are vacated by students who do not return to the University or who opt to study abroad.

Applications from rising fourth-year students grew this year, an indication that more seniors may be opting to live on campus.

Entries in the lottery for South Hall – a strictly senior residence hall comprised mainly of single bedroom suites – jumped 23 percent to about 775 applicants. The building is home to about 475 beds.

Weinshel said the growth in applications is partially the result of continuing popularity for the apartment-style building, as well as a larger junior class.

Fall-only housing applications rose to 130 this year, up from about 100 – likely the result of more students planning in advance to go abroad in the spring so they can stay for the presidential election in the fall.

Gender neutral housing, still what Weinshel called a “pilot program,” saw a dip in applicants – from 145 last year to 112 who applied this spring.

The University is surveying students who took advantage of the gender neutral option to monitor its progress.

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