By Matthew Kaufman
Residential Education and Housing sent representatives to the College’s Residence Hall Association and Student Government to outline the upcoming differential housing policy, along with the possibility of requiring first-year students to live on campus.
The differential housing system, which will go into effect next fall, will increase the price of single rooms compared to doubles and triples. Tina Tormey, director of ResEd, said in the Oct. 18 presentations that the system was designed to increase flexibility for students while boosting revenue for investment in the facilities.
“Obviously, the cost of higher education has continued to increase,” Tormey said at the RHA meeting. “Students may be very committed to living in [on-campus] housing but might want to be able to choose a more affordable option. So having different room rates allows them to choose how much they're willing to pay for housing.”
While other colleges often have varying prices based on the amenities of housing, such as air conditioning or kitchen facilities, the only differentiator at the College will be the occupancy number of the room.
Assistant Vice President of Student Development Kelly Hennessy said this was because the College’s housing facilities are generally split up by cohort, so upperclassmen — who are most often the sole occupants of apartments with singles, air conditioning and kitchens — would otherwise end up paying a significantly higher amount than underclassmen.
Though the price difference has not yet been finalized, Hennessy said it would most likely cost around $500 more per semester to live in a single.
Delaney Smith, a junior journalism major and president of RHA, which serves as an advocacy group for on-campus residents, said in an interview that she supported the differential housing initiative.
“There is a lot of opportunity to get fair pricing for different accommodations in different buildings,” Smith said. “So I think that there is definitely a lot of positive potential there.”
Eitan Halevi, vice president for advancement of student government and sophomore biology major, told Lions TV in an interview that he thinks differential housing can be beneficial to both students and the College as a whole.
“Differential housing is a very realistic solution to a lot of the financial problems that our school is having,” Halevi said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make [singles] more expensive.”
Another policy that ResEd is exploring is requiring first-year students to live on campus. While the office has not officially decided to implement this, the representatives solicited feedback from students at these meetings nonetheless.
David Cruz, associate director of housing, said one of the drivers of this policy was that commuters often have trouble making connections on campus. He pointed to a survey that found half of the College’s commuters were not involved in a co-curricular activity, and a quarter reported not having any close friends on campus.
“According to national data, students who live on campus are more likely to stay at their institute, graduate in four years and connect with the resources to attain success,” Cruz said. “They're also more likely to get involved and experience a sense of community and belonging.”
There would be exemptions allowed, including for students who reside with their parents or guardian within 10 miles of campus, financial need, health issues and other extenuating circumstances.
Students in RHA and student government had a more skeptical reaction to this proposal compared to differential housing.
Smith said that she worried about the costs imposed on those who wish to commute.
“I am still very on the fence about it,” Smith said. “I definitely think it would put an unnecessary financial burden on commuters, and I’m still not on board with that.”
Sarah Kasziba-O'Rahilly, senator of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, told LTV that there are many considerations a student and their family make when deciding on housing options.
“I think there are a lot of personal and financial aspects that go into why students choose to commute,” Kasziba-O'Rahilly said. “But I’m sure that staff have their reasoning for making it mandatory.”
Even though the policy is not official yet, the College’s ambassadors have been told to start telling tours of prospective students that the requirement may be put in effect. Hennessy told The Signal in an interview that this was because they want prospective students to be informed even if ResEd decides not to enact the requirement.
“It’s easier to say there’s a requirement than to not ever tell them about the requirement until they get on board,” Hennessy said.
A final decision on the first year residency requirement will be made in the coming months. Housing costs for the 2024-2025 school year will be decided at the July 2024 Board of Trustees meeting.