Off-campus housing availability shrinks

In light of an email sent out by the Office of Residence Life on Oct. 12, 2015, reminding students of a four-year residency requirement, some students have voiced concerns about being unable to live off campus.

Juniors Merrick Madden and Alex Trunfio  have considered starting a petition for more students to be approved to live off campus.

“We’re looking to gather facts and meet with administration to see what kind of change we can make,” Trunfio said.

Currently, the students are working on spreading awareness of the situation and gathering support through a Facebook page they created, by word of mouth and by contacting leaders of campus organizations.

“We’ve had a huge backing so far,” said Trunfio.

In years prior to 2011, students were only bound under a three-year residency requirement. Residence life allowed students to keep the shorter requirement until the class of 2015 graduated.

“To come up with a process for release, the office of student life worked with ASG, came up with a process, ASG signed off on that process and that’s been the process in place the last two years and going into this year,” said Jen Foxman, assistant dean and director of residence life.

During the 2013-14 academic school year, residence life initially approved 100 students to live off campus for the 2014-15 year. Last year, residence life initially approved 50 students for the 2015-16 year. Due to enrollment numbers, residence life was able to release 70 in total, taking about 20 students from the waiting list. For the 2016-17 academic year, 25 students have been initially approved, which is subject to change once admissions receives more definite enrollment numbers in May, when enrollment deposits are due.

It’s not an all-year residency requirement, it’s a four-year residency requirement.

— Jen Foxman

“The end goal is to be as close to 100 percent  full as possible, for many reasons,” Foxman said. “One is they’ve built that many beds, because they want it to be a residential college. [The second is] they’ve built that many beds and they can’t have them empty.”

According to Gretchen Kerr, the associate director of residence life for housing, students can send in applications to be released for off-campus housing on Dec. 18 at 7 a.m., and students will be chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“I think we’ll probably go back to [Allegheny Student Government] and see if that’s a process they still feel comfortable with, especially since we’re taking fewer people,” said Foxman.

Students are not released solely on who turns in their application first.

“There were some basic criteria to that application. It wasn’t just a free for all,” said Kerr. “So we looked at if a student was actively on probation, either academically or through our conduct system.”

Aside from the application, students may be released from the residency requirement if they have dependents, are married, live within 50 miles of the school and commute, if they are part-time, or if they are at or over the age of 23.

Foxman said that anyone beyond four years of schooling at Allegheny can be released as well, so fifth-year students have no on-campus living requirement.

“It’s not an all-year residency requirement, it’s a four-year residency requirement,” she said.

According to Foxman, the number of students approved to live off campus is based on enrollment numbers.

“The number of students that are released is equal to the number of estimated students that we won’t be able to accommodate on campus,” she said. “There’s nothing more to it than that. It’s not allowing people to live off campus. It’s a release from the requirement based on who we can accommodate.”

If a student signs a lease for an off campus house without being released, they can be subject to paying for both residencies.

“They’re responsible for the charges on campus unless they’ve gone through the process of being released. And if they’ve signed a lease, they could be held responsible for some portion or all of that off-campus as well,” Kerr said.

According to Kerr, the office of residence life has sent out an identical email for the past three years, reminding students of the four-year residency requirement, and reminding them not to sign a lease until they are approved to be released.

“Our goal, always, since [Foxman] and I have been in this position, is to be as transparent as possible with students,” said Kerr. “And we’re willing to talk to any student that has questions and we want them to know that. That’s the reasons we send out these emails—we’re being as transparent as we can possibly be.”