A number of rising juniors and seniors hoping to secure university housing were disappointed last week when USC Housing informed them that all spots have been filled. But for students hoping to earn spots as resident advisors, the announcement was particularly alarming.
Despite the 4 percent increase in university-owned housing prices, the number of housing applicants rose, according to Keenan Cheung, director of USC Housing. This means more sophomores and juniors looking for housing were turned away.
Most students turned down by USC Housing still have some time left to secure non-university housing; though the process is intimidating, it is by no means impossible. The students looking for R.A. positions, however, are stuck. They cannot sign a non-university housing lease because of the chance that they will be given the R.A. position and will be living in the dorms, but less than half of them will actually get the position.
According to Elizabeth Peterson, assistant director for staff development and diversity, final R.A. decisions are announced in April. Applicants are instructed to apply for university housing as part of the general lottery in February to secure a spot. If chosen, they will be reimbursed for housing and moved into an R.A. room.
This process, however, does not work for students like Caitlin Finnigan, a sophomore majoring in history and an R.A. hopeful who did not secure housing through the lottery.
Finnigan said she is frustrated with the housing process.
“If UCLA can guarantee university housing for all four years for all undergraduates and they have more students than we do, USC should be able to guarantee housing for all four years,” she said.
USC only recently began guaranteeing housing for sophomores, a move seen as a huge victory. The university has constantly been working to improve the housing issue, but Cheung acknowledged that it can create problems for R.A. applicants and others.
“It’s always, unfortunately, the juniors and seniors that have a rough time getting university housing,” Cheung said.
Kara Lemma, residential coordinator for Birnkrant Residential College, said it would be nearly impossible to coordinate the R.A. selection process with the housing process.
“It would be really difficult for us to speed up the process,” she said. “I suppose the only thing they could really consider doing is teach EDCO in the fall, but that doesn’t give as many people the opportunity to become R.A.s and we don’t have the same kind of pool. It’s tough, it really is tough.”
Lemma said she thinks USC Housing and the Office for Residential Education need to find a solution.
“We probably need to put our heads together to figure out a plan to at least guarantee housing for R.A. applicants,” Lemma said. “We could probably step that up a lot so that they are not stuck trying to scramble for housing in April. By then, all the spots around campus in privately-owned housing are gone.”
Lemma said applicants who don’t get USC Housing are stuck in a bad situation, adding that if students are unhappy with their housing it can affect their college experience.
“It’s incredibly difficult to be put on the waitlist and cross your fingers that you get something,” she said. “My concern with this whole thing is that these are students we’re talking about. If you don’t have stable living conditions, it’s extremely difficult to do really well in school.”
Housing has been a factor for applicants in previous years, according to second-year R.A. Michael Neagoe, a junior majoring in business administration.
“Anytime you apply to be an R.A. you have to take that into consideration,” Neagoe said. “There’s a time you’ll be unsure about housing. What you can do is apply for housing too or work it out with friends.”
For students not involved in the residential advisor program, university housing is an easier and more affordable alternative to searching for private housing — if it is available when their lottery time rolls around.
“It’s stressful to look for privately-owned housing around campus,” said Lindsay Thomson, a sophomore majoring in business administration.
Thomson, who secured a spot for the fall of her junior year, said she thinks it is fair that USC can’t guarantee housing.
“It’s pretty reasonable,” she said. “The campus isn’t big enough to accommodate everyone. Two years is pretty good.”
The university housing capacity is 6,800 beds, both on-campus and off-campus, which is not enough for the approximately 8,000 applicants, according to Cheung.
The university has fixed housing for a certain number of graduate students and families, while juniors and seniors are able to select from the remaining 500 to 800 spaces before USC housing runs out, he said.