Upperclassmen sent off campus

Juniors and seniors scramble to find off-campus housing

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: March 4, 2024
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Watson Hall is home to hundreds of students. This year, housing had to utilize showrooms to make up for a lack of space.

SRU is prioritizing housing for incoming freshmen and sophomores over that of juniors and seniors as the new two-year housing requirement takes effect. This has led to concern among students who are now unsure where they will live next year. 

“We would love to be able to accommodate everybody [who wants to live on campus], but our focus has really been on that freshman and sophomore experience,” Chief Student Affairs Officer David Wilmes said. “We may have a few spots to offer. We’re not going to have many.”

Applications for housing were submitted in the fall semester. Most students assumed this guaranteed a space for them, since this is largely how the process worked in the past. 

However, many upperclassmen received emails letting them know they likely will not be able to live on campus for the upcoming year. Some were able to secure a room while others were placed on a waiting list. 

Students expressed frustration on social media over the timing of these emails, as they were sent in spring 2024 after nearby apartment complexes had already raised their prices. Additionally, some do not think they can afford a monthly payment model. 

“I could have got my money together if they had said something at the beginning of the school year or over the summer,” current junior Isaiah Williams said. “It would be a different conversation if housing was transparent from the beginning…so people could prepare financially.”

Some students are concerned that they will not receive as much financial aid if they live off campus. However, that information is no longer asked for on FAFSA forms. 

“There’s only one scholarship program we know of that has an on-campus requirement and that’s the Pittsburgh Promise,” Wilmes said. “Students can take a loan—there’s a lot that gets put in qualified expenses…Financial aid can apply for on-campus housing or off-campus housing.”

Former SRU president William Behre made the decision to require sophomores to live on campus in July 2022. 

“Research shows students who live on campus are more likely to be successful academically and retain,” Wilmes said. “The rationale for it was that sophomores have the need to be accountable. Not that active juniors and seniors don’t have a need to be, but the first two years are really critical in college.” 

Wilmes claimed the school did not expect there to be so much competition over rooms. 

“Historically, students generally didn’t want to live on campus…this year…people don’t want to leave,” Wilmes said. “We were expecting that we would have a lot more current freshmen ask for an exemption.”

While the initial policy was widely known and discussed, ascending juniors and seniors did not anticipate the situation either. 

“I believe that the frustration, the panic from the students would not be as nearly as high if there was clear communication,” Williams said. “Research shows ‘blah, blah, blah?’ How about in person, current student responses…they never want to talk to the students, always want to talk to themselves.”

He said the current situation leads to upperclassmen being “unseen”. 

“I feel like they’re prioritizing the enrollment and not so much the overall success of the student as a progression for four years to the graduation date,” Williams said. 

He presented the fact that transportation could pose issues for students as well, especially if the Happy Bus does not adhere to its schedule. 

Williams then stated that the process of securing housing was more complicated than his experiences in the past. He originally submitted his housing form in December but received an email in February stating that he had yet to complete it. 

“I screenshotted the form completion and sent it…[housing] was like, ‘Oh yes, we received your completed form, this is my mistake,’” he said. “If seniors didn’t respond in that type of way or advocate like that, I wonder how many of them just got set to the side off of a mistake.”

The incoming senior was able to land an on-campus room after speaking with Student Support. 

“I mentioned that I had an accommodation. That was literally the only thing that allowed me to stay on campus,” Williams said. “It was such a polarizing conversation because beforehand, they were treating me like they would all the other seniors…they talked to housing for me and got it figured out.”

At this time, the university has not made any plans to amend the policy.

“I think we’re going to try to do more education on how the two-year requirement doesn’t guarantee housing for juniors,” Wilmes said. “It’s really more about managing expectations in terms of what we have available on campus…I think some of the kinks will work themselves out.”

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