UM students say they are confused about the recent letter of notification and mass e-mail that was sent out to residents requiring that a $250 housing deposit be paid to the Department of Residence Halls by Feb. 21, instead of the usual deadline in April.
According to Jon Baldessari, assistant director of Residence Halls for Marketing, the early deadline is meant to facilitate the housing registration process for both students and housing officials.
“In past years, we’ve taken the deposit at the same time that rooms are assigned, but that really slowed down the process,” said Baldessari, who noted that dealing with checks and other details has often created long lines and unnecessary waiting in past years.
Initially, many students believed that the new deadline was part of a plan to make on-campus housing available to a rush of incoming freshman in Fall 2003.
“Between 55 and 60 percent of students return to on-campus housing each year, and we want to focus on those people, the people that really do want to live on campus,” Baldessari said.
According to Robert Redick, director of residence halls, UM’s supply of student housing did not meet demand last August, resulting in floor lounges in Hecht and Stanford to be converted to student rooms. Also, housing for intensive English, law, and grad students was eliminated and their spaces re-assigned to undergraduates. Some students were housed in the Holiday Inn and even some RAs had temporary roommates the first several weeks of school.
“To better address the problem this year, a change has been made in continuing student housing sign-up this spring,” Redick said. “This change has been made to determine a month earlier the actual number of continuing students wanting to return. This earlier date will give us the opportunity to implement better options while students are still here, if too many continuing students want to return.”
In the past, if demand was too great, the Department of Residence Halls didn’t know it until students were leaving for the summer, which restricted the options for handling the problem, said Redick.
However, some students and parents worry that the early due date may lead to a financial crunch to come up with the $250 non-refundable deposit. In the past, many students used their tax returns to pay for the deposit.
“I don’t think that it’s particularly inconvenient for me, but I wonder if it’s not taking advantage of people not knowing where they want to live next year,” said Janet Givens, mother of sophomore Erica Givens. “I guess that arranging housing might be enough of an ordeal that they need to get people through as early as possible, but it just doesn’t seem like a convenient window of time for everyone.”
“I had a heart attack,” freshman Christie Creamean said. “I was worried that I couldn’t come up with that much money that fast, but I talked about it with my mom- she said that living on campus was probably the best thing for me, so we would find the money somehow.”
Baldessari said that the Department of Residence Halls is aware that some students have personal and financial issues that could keep them from paying in time, and they plan to be as understanding as possible with these students.
“That’s why we started mailing out flyers as soon as students got back from winter break. We wanted to give students as much notice as possible, so that if they really wanted to live on campus, they would have the time to come up with the deposit,” Baldessari said.
According to Baldessari, students unable to pay the deposit by Feb. 21 will be placed on a waiting list and moved into university housing on a space-available basis. He also said that his department would always be willing to look at individual cases, but that wait-listed students had a slim chance of getting a housing assignment and would be encouraged to look for housing options off campus.
“We also plan to use the Holiday Inn again next year,” Baldessari said. “We’ll be placing some transfer students and exchange students over there. We tend to try to put an older population in the Holiday Inn, people that have been away from home and are better suited to the slightly different environment.”
Baldessari estimated that around 200 students would be housed in the Holiday Inn for Fall 2003.
The only other major change in housing policy for next semester is that students wishing to remain in the same room will be eligible for express signup. Students will be guaranteed an assignment to their current room immediately upon payment of their housing deposit if they so choose.
Freshman Anna Creed, a current resident of Hecht, said that she plans to stay on campus next year.
“It’s convenient,” said Creed. “You get to meet a lot of people. I wish that the deadline wasn’t so early though. We would be able to make a much better decision later in the spring about the people we want to live with then we can in February.”
The Department of Residence Halls works with Commuter Student Affairs to provide an information listing for students who are interested in off-campus housing. Information is available on EASY regarding apartments available in the area, potential roommate matches, and other such housing issues.
For additional information, contact the Department of Residence Halls at 8-4505 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirsten Miller can be contacted at email@example.com