Undergraduate housing waitlist exceeds 500 students, surpasses numbers from the past decade


Thursday, Feb. 16, 548 upperclassmen who applied for on-campus housing received notice from Residence Life that the College of William and Mary could not guarantee them a room for the 2023-2024 academic year. While the College guarantees housing for freshmen and sophomores because they must live on campus, many juniors and seniors are on a waitlist hoping for a spot.

As the College moves forward with its 10 year comprehensive plan to renew campus facilities, on campus housing capacity will fluctuate, particularly in the initial years of the project. These fluctuations, as well as recent increases in enrollment, have placed a strain on Residence Life’s ability to meet student demand.

After a decade of consistently low numbers of wait-listed students, Residence Life placed more than 500 upperclassmen on the wait list in each of the past two years.

While we cannot guarantee that all students initially placed on the housing waitlist will eventually be offered on-campus housing, in past years we have been able to house all students who actively remained on the waitlist,” Director of Housing and Residence Life Harriet Kandell said. 

Students have the option to either withdraw from the waitlist, or remain in a lottery to receive housing until Aug 1.

In 2019, Residence Life announced that, beginning with the class of 2023, incoming first-year students would be required to live on campus for their freshman and sophomore year. Only first-year students were required to live on campus prior to this mandate. Residence Life hoped this change would provide more support to students during their transition from freshman year to sophomore year.

Last April, the College unveiled its 10-year plan to renovate or replace current student housing and dining facilities. Over three phases, the plan will demolish 45% of student housing. Additionally, 35% of residence buildings will undergo some degree of renovation. The plan does not expect to change the total capacity of on-campus housing, which is around 5,000 beds. 

Phase One includes the demolition of Yates Hall, Green and Gold Village and Commons Dining Hall. Yates is scheduled to be demolished in summer 2023. The first phase also includes major renovations to Old Dominion Hall and Monroe Hall. To accommodate for the loss in beds from Yates and Monroe for the class of 2027, DuPont Hall (which currently houses primarily sophomores) will become a freshman dorm starting in fall 2023. Phase One includes plans for West Campus Dining hall, which will replace Commons. The Campus Center site is also set to close for new construction.

The housing updates aim to provide every student with a fully air conditioned and ventilated bedroom. The average age of housing buildings across campus will reduce from 54 years to 10 years. Upon completion of the plan, 50% of housing at the College will be new, and another 30% will be recently renovated.

In the past year, the College has adjusted and delayed its housing projects to accommodate for the number of students who want to live on-campus. December 2021, residents of One Tribe Place, an upperclassmen residence hall with four floors of single and double rooms, received notification that the building was to close for the 2022-2023 academic year due to structural deterioration and a planned demolition of unused space in the building. The College subsequently reversed its decision due to higher than expected demand for housing.

Increased undergraduate enrollment over the last two years may contribute to the imbalance between housing capacity and demand for on-campus housing. 

Increased undergraduate enrollment over the last two years may contribute to the imbalance between housing capacity and demand for on-campus housing. 

Many students have expressed frustration and disappointment with the College’s handling of the waitlist. Paola Gonzalez ’25 is one of over 500 students on the waitlist for on-campus housing next year.

 “I think the waiting list definitely needs to be restructured to take into consideration FGLI [First Generation Low Income] and out-of-state students,” Gonzalez said. 

Currently, the College is offering students on the waitlist a chance to enter a random drawing for housing as it becomes available. The waitlist does not take financial need into consideration.

“I sent [ResLife] an email voicing my concerns about being able to afford off campus housing, and they sent me back an automated response that did not give me any clear answer,” Gonzalez said. “In fact, the email said that if I was anxious about the uncertainty of getting on campus housing, I should cancel my housing contract and try to find off-campus housing, despite me clearly stating in the email that I could not afford it.” 

While some financial aid refunds are available for students living off-campus, these refunds are not available to students who do not have financial aid packages which cover full tuition and fees. The refunds also only cover nine months, while many off-campus apartments require a full 12 month lease. 

The ResLife website currently directs students to a number of off-campus housing resources, including wmoffcampus.com, a website specifically created for student accommodations. It also recommends accessing the “College of William and Mary Housing, Sublets and Roommates” Facebook Group, a private group where members can offer and request housing options. 

This year, the College has organized three off-campus housing fairs, including two in February and one last November. At these fairs, students have the chance to gather information about off-campus housing options without committing to a rental application. 

November 2022, the City of Williamsburg sought student input on off-campus housing through an anonymous survey included in Student Assembly communications. The City created the survey to gauge interest in a Williamsburg Rent Ready program described by SA as a “partnership between students, the city, W&M, and landlords, to provide safe, quality, and reliable student rental housing.” 

The program, modeled after a program adopted in Norfolk, seeks to certify rental properties as safe options for students. An early committee report lists four potential criteria for property certification: “quality assessment, landlord completion of a training course, use of the city’s preferred lease, and enrollment in the emergency notification system.” 

The College would only “promote” properties enrolled in Rent Ready to students, “giving the certification legitimacy.” 

The City’s 2023-2024 Biennial Goals, Initiatives, and Outcomes, adopted by Williamsburg City Council Nov. 10, 2022, seeks to create an initial draft of Williamsburg Rent Ready program guidelines, including a “model lease, landlord-renter curriculum and ordinance” for approval and adoption by the City Council. This project could foreseeably make the process of finding off-campus housing much easier for students.  

“The number of students wanting to live on campus next year simply exceeds our available space,” the W&M Residence Life Assignments Team said in an email sent to a waitlisted student. “As we progress with plans for residential improvements over time, we look forward to having spaces to right-size our housing program.”

While initiatives like Rent Ready and the 10 year comprehensive plan address housing concerns in the long term, the current on-campus housing shortage remains a problem for the over 500 students on the waitlist.

CORRECTION (3/8/23): Article was updated by Sarah Devendorf, the Standards and Practices Editor to give credit to Shradha Dinesh and Abhayprad Jha and for contributing to the writing of this article as co-authors.



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