Nov. 26, 2014

Clearer costs

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March 27, 2014

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When it comes to getting housing on campus, nothing ever feels certain until you have claimed your bed and begun unpacking. Not all of this can be laid at Residence Life’s feet, though: Students of the College of William and Mary make the process uncertain through miscommunication and rapidly-shifting preferences. But one thing Residence Life can and should do is make housing prices more widely available more quickly. Students may not know where or with whom they’re living, but they should know what they’re paying before they make their choices.

It goes without saying that many students generally have little money. Those who are not being subsidized by their parents have to pay their way through college, and that involves strategic decisions about how to spend their time during the school year as well as during the summer. Students charged more for housing than they were expecting may have to pass up certain valuable, but low-paying jobs and unpaid internships to cover costs. Providing students with housing prices earlier would help them plan ahead and make better financial decisions.

If students learn they have to pay more after they register for housing, they or their parents may decide they need to switch housing. What results is a convoluted, friendship-straining mess which takes months to resolve. Everyone wants to be secure in housing arrangements, and if students have as much information as possible, they can avoid the stress that comes with last-minute housing changes.

Residence Life may not know the exact price of housing until after students register, but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide estimates. They could give the first approximation before students pay their housing deposits and continue to revise until students register. That way, students would be able to base their decisions on limited information, rather than no information.

If early price estimates prove impossible for Residence Life, it should at least email students the prices once they are determined. Students shouldn’t have to check the College website to see housing costs when they could just as easily look in their inboxes. This would also take some mystery out of the process.

Email updates from Residence Life informing students of housing prices would remove any ambiguity. In addition, Residence Life already emails students reminding them to pay housing deposits and fill out surveys as well as informing them that they are on the waitlist. It would not be difficult for Residence Life to include an email about housing prices.

The road to acquiring on-campus housing at the College is long and unpredictable. Waitlists, roommate drama, housing availability and cost bring many of us to the brink of insanity every April. The more Residence Life can do to alleviate students’ uncertainty, the better. Emailing students more information about housing costs throughout the year would be a good start.

Meredith Ramey recused herself from this staff editorial due to a conflict of interest.

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