For those stuck in a housing limbo, each day means another lease signed, another apartment taken and another option snatched from the ever-diminishing supply of affordable, off-campus housing.
This is the reality facing applicants to the Resident Assistant program who still haven’t heard back about their acceptance. The application process puts them in a housing limbo of sorts because, if accepted, they would be provided with on-campus housing. Given the highly competitive housing market around campus — some apartments suggest signing leases as early as October — applicants are put in an unacceptable situation.
Although it may be too late to resolve this issue for current applicants, it is crucial that the Student Staff Selection Committee considers making changes to the process for next year so rejected applicants — particularly low-income students who need affordable housing — can plan their housing situation sooner.
The current application consists of two stages: an initial application and an interview. Some are cut after an application review in mid-November, but those who aren’t must wait until February for a final decision.
This puts some RA candidates at a distinct disadvantage when trying to find the best and cheapest off-campus apartments, which is a first come, first serve competition. Having to wait until February means that a rejected RA applicant may not be able to take advantage of the cheaper and more desirable apartment options available in the fall — a burden that falls particularly heavy on low-income students.
“I did the RA process so that I could get a cheap single room, which is about $3,000 for nine months,” said Jeremiah Reilly, a computer science freshman and an RA applicant. “It’s almost impossible to find any off-campus houses at the same rate. They’re mostly 12-month leases. Rates are going up and the desirable places are being taken.”
For a student without a large housing budget, even a slightly more expensive apartment can be a big financial hit. The later rejected students are notified about their RA application decision, the harder it becomes to find housing.
“There’s definitely uncertainty as to whether or not I’ll be able to find a cheap place to stay next year,” Reilly said. “Most people I know found apartments off campus back in the fall and already have roommates.”
Next year, the Student Staff Selection Committee should either begin the process sooner or expedite the final decision.
“I definitely think they should have moved the application process up by about a month,” Reilly said. “I would have liked to interview in early November and heard back before winter break. I’ve already spent two months waiting to hear from them, and I don’t want to lose any more time in case I get rejected and need to find an apartment.”
Being an RA is an important job, and the selection committee must make sure only the best candidates are selected. However, processing the remaining applications in less than two months, the current time line, seems like a doable task for the selection committee. Accelerating the time line may even give the committee a more qualified pool of applicants. Those who consider the decision timeline a deal breaker may consider applying if the process becomes more time sensitive.
According to an email sent to candidates a month after the application deadline, the committee “received approximately 400 applications … all of which were carefully screened.” If the selection committee can thoroughly review 400 applications in one month, it seems plausible they could still thoroughly review the smaller pool of interviewed applicants in less than two.
Improving the RA application process is critical to assisting students with smaller housing budgets in their search for affordable accommodations. Releasing decisions earlier, whether through an earlier application deadline or a speedier review process, makes the opportunity more attractive to the students involved and more equitable for all.
Springs is a government freshman from Dallas.