Crunch for Campus Housing Begins

Trying to secure on-campus housing at USF can literally be the luck of the draw—if you’re an upperclassmen. Incoming freshmen and sophomores are required by policy to live on campus, but upper-class and graduate level students have the option to live either on or off campus. For those looking into Loyola Village, which offers desirable apartment style facilities, a select majority will be placed on the waiting list this year, without guarantee that a space will open up.

According to Lesli Pocock, Assistant Director for Operations and Technology at the Office of Residence Life (ORL), the chances of being put on the waiting list are viable every year. Last year, spaces filled up by the end of the first night that the online system USFrooms was opened; occupancy had been filled after only five or six hours. “Loyola village is very popular, so it does generally close out pretty quickly,” Pocock said. This will be USF’s second year of using the online system USFrooms on USFconnect. Because on-campus housing is now done electronically, the system is able to configure mass housing spaces.

Although USFrooms is not yet opened for room selection, it works by giving 15-minute time intervals for students to select a room and roommate. About 10 to 15 students are given a time slot to choose which residence hall, room number, and roommate they want. The earlier the time slot, the greater the chances of landing your desired housing spot. Because any one person can choose up to five roommates when applying for LV, Loyola fills spaces very quickly, Pocock said.

In the past, students had to wait in line over the course of a week to reserve a room. But having an online system, it speeds up the process for students.

Last year, when junior Adriana Ponce-Jimenez was ready to fill out her online application, she thought she had a high priority number because it was the first day that the system had opened. But upon logging on, she was automatically placed on the waiting list—a number in the high fifties. “It was really unfortunate, because I was looking forward to not worrying about living off campus where I have to pay bills monthly. I liked the idea of paying everything off right away.” After she made many calls to the ORL office, asking whether she had moved up the list, Ponce-Jimenez said she gave up and settled to live in an apartment a few blocks away from campus. “I was really lucky that I had found that apartment, because I knew the people that were moving out, and I don’t know if I could’ve gotten a fair-priced apartment close to campus if I didn’t know people,” she said.

That is precisely the thinking behind the lottery system. The lottery system determines how early a student gets their time slot, and it is based on student “experience.” Therefore, “those students who have the most experience on campus and in San Francisco choose later,” Pocock said, “so someone who just transferred in their sophomore year and has only been here one year or maybe even just one semester….is going to choose first.” According to Pocock, a person who has less knowledge and experience at USF has had less time to network and find roommates.

This system has been working out for ORL in the past. “I wish we can have everyone in the exact room that they want but our housing stock is limited, so what we do is give it to those students who are most in need.”

Because of the randomized lottery system, students who live outside of California are not given priority. For junior Kendra Brazile, she too had hopes of finding residence in LV last year because she lives in Hawaii. However, she was another student who was immediately placed on the waiting list, catapulting a never-ending search for an apartment and roommate from Hawaii during the summer before her junior year. “My mom was really mad, but there was nothing we could do about it.”

Pocock said out-of-state students are not given special consideration. “There are a lot of things that I would like to be able to consider: someone’s economic status, their permanent address. The reality is that not all of those things impact people’s decisions the same way for some people because they live farther away. They do want to live off campus and get a more permanent situation, so we don’t have those factors and for some people whose economic status is impacted, they have been able to find another option off campus that works better for them.”

For incoming freshmen and sophomores, the waiting list is something they don’t have to worry about. Incoming sophomores are given their priority number by random, while expected freshmen are given priority the earlier they submit their undergraduate application.

To prevent overcrowding that has happened in previous years, ORL gave about 50 returning students the opportunity to be exempted from on-campus housing, also done through a lottery. If students were not granted the exemption by March 5th, they had to turn in a housing application by March 12th.

ORL had to take into account how many freshmen USF will potentially admit next year and how many first year students are expected to remain on campus for their sophomore year. “If we took away 50 spaces from sophomore students and we’re able to give that to first year students next year, we’ll be able to add more lounges and have fewer triples for students who don’t want to be in triples.”

Pocock said that there are students that actually want to be in triples because of the financial benefit of paying less. Living in a triple, or a room that houses three students, is what makes it possible for some students to continue at USF.

Although Pocock doesn’t know how many triples will be added for next year, ORL will try to place at least one permanent triple on each floor of first-year buildings. Second-year buildings will also house triples, but there wouldn’t be more than 2 permanent triples per floor, Pocock said.  The triples that will be added will depend on the actual return of the freshmen class.

Room selection for returning students begins the week of March 29th. If students miss this opportunity to select their prospective room and roommate, they can apply for the second selection process, which takes place the first week in July.

Pocock advises that students take the one-year contract for on-campus housing very seriously. In the past, ORL has allowed some contracts to be dismissed. Either students do not return to USF or they sign up for housing as a back-up plan, an approach that is highly discouraged.  “When you sign a contract, you’re signing a contract for an entire year,” Pocock said. “Particularly for Loyola Village, you prevent somebody else who really needs housing.”

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