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Give me shelter: Students look for housing

Dorm story photo

By Racquel Joseph

For some students living on campus, final exams are not the only obstacle standing in the way of summer vacation. Even before final grades are issued, students face move-out, a time where all dorm rooms must be vacated on strict deadlines.

This year, final exams began on May 5 and ended May 11. Students had until the afternoon of May 12 to completely check out of their rooms. Dorms are then vacant until May 30, a period known as “the interim.”

The result of this interim is a housing gap. Students that plan to live in Waco over the summer for school, internships, or other employment either live on campus, where dorms open on May 30, sign new leases that begin in June, or sublease summer apartments from graduating students scrambling out of leases.

This gap forces students to either move, and move again, or store their belongings for a few weeks (in units or in car trunks) and beg to sleep on the couch of a friend who is lucky enough to have a continuous lease. However, many students and parents are missing the opportunity to avoid the hassle altogether. There are such things as “exceptions.”

Dave Kennedy, assistant director for Campus Living and Learning explains, “The majority of our spaces do close down, but North Village, The Arbors, Fairmont, and The Gables apartments residents, in either the spring or the fall, can stay over. But they must apply. Usually that’s the biggest hurdle; people don’t apply.”

The small number of exceptions requested can be chalked up to a lack of awareness. Exceptions are mentioned on the Campus Living and Learning (CL&L) website, but a phone call or two is necessary to obtain one. However, only a small percentage of students are eligible for an exception because they must live in one of those four residence halls (North Village, The Arbors, Fairmont, and The Gables) and plan to continue living on campus for the subsequent semester.

On average, the CL&L office receives calls from only about a half dozen students, asking, “What are we supposed to do in the interim?” said Kennedy. CL&L does what it can to accommodate those students, for a price. Staying for the minimester (which coincides with part of the interim) costs $372 or $219 for those staying through the summer. For both summer sessions, rooms run $1,498.

But, if students are coming from majority freshmen housing such as Collins Hall, CL&L simply does not have the space for them or the storage to store their belongings. “There is a large percentage of our students that basically live within a matter of hours from here. It’s a little inconvenient for them but most of them are planning to go home anyway,” Kennedy said. According to fall 2009 statistics, 80.9 percent of students are Texas residents.

Summer housing on campus does seem to be increasingly popular, and there is not a definite reason why as enrollment figures have remained steady for the past five years. Kennedy suggests that pesky twelve-month leases are a factor.

Megan Woods, assistant property manager for Aspen Square Management, says that the office often gets calls this time of year concerning summer subleases. “Right now, this time of year, a lot of our residents are graduating and their leases aren’t up until August. It’s pretty common that residents need to get out of leases early,” Woods said. “It’s ultimately the resident’s responsibility to find someone to take over their lease.” All leases at Aspen Square are twelve months. At each local management company, one or two properties offer ten-month leases, usually at higher rent rates. Most available leases that offer students summer housing begin on May 30, June 1, or June 6, all of which fall after the interim.

So for some students the option of subleasing for the summer is the easiest. But that can lead them to move into one place for the months of June and July and immediately relocate to another, sometimes facing the fall interim. This year, that interim spans from August 10-18.

Houston senior Felicia Turner (pictured above) planned to move into her first off-campus apartment directly following CL&L’s move-out. Unfortunately, Turner was suddenly unable to move in as planned. “I was literally homeless for about a day,” she explained. Turner eventually worked out a deal to stay in a friend’s vacant house for fifteen days as long as she paid the electricity bill. “I am being very frugal,” she said. “I still have to pay for a storage unit for all of my furniture.” Turner reports feeling very stressed about the situation, especially because she is starting an MCAT preparation class during this transitional period.

Currently, Turner’s move-in date is scheduled for June 1, the first day of her summer classes.

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