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Bigger housing crunch, computerized lottery common at other colleges

Brown students might gripe about the housing lottery every spring, but they are all guaranteed a place to live. At other colleges, students are sometimes forced off campus and into scarce, expensive housing by their sophomore years.

At Harvard and Yale universities, students do not go through a campus-wide housing lottery because they are assigned to particular residential houses, where they eat and live until graduation.

But at many public universities and other Ivy League Schools - including Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Dartmouth College - only first-years are guaranteed on-campus housing. Upperclassmen at these schools must either move off campus or participate in a competitive Web-based room lottery based on seniority, according to the schools' Web sites.

At Dartmouth, the lottery is held every 10 weeks due to the university's trimester system, according to Gwen Williams, assistant to the director of housing for the college. Students complete an online application, designating their preferred building and room types, and then attend a seniority-based lottery to select their rooms. After their first year, students can opt to live off campus, and they are encouraged to do so, Williams said.

But since it is often difficult to find adequate off-campus living in the small town of Hanover, N.H., sophomores most often decide to stay on campus, Williams said. This tendency creates an intense housing crunch every fall, in which 180 to 200 rising sophomores are placed on a summer waitlist, not knowing whether they will have rooms until late August or early September, she said.

"This uncertainty makes both students and parents really nervous, but no system will be perfect," Williams said. "I know that most other schools face this type of crunch."

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with an undergraduate population of about 16,000 students, faces a similar housing crunch on a much larger scale.

"We guarantee space for our 2,800 to 3,000 incoming freshmen, but beyond that there is always a housing crunch. We can rarely provide housing for transfers or students who wish to return to residential housing after living off campus. As rents continue to rise, there have been more student complaints about this," said Rick Bradley, UNC director of housing.

Bradley said UNC has begun allowing first-year students to live off campus in an effort to open up more space on campus. Still, most students have elected to live in the dorms.

At Brown, the situation is different - instead of a waitlist to gain access to dorm rooms, there is a waitlist to obtain off-campus permission.

"Since Brown considers itself a residential college, our system takes care of student needs pretty well in terms of housing," said Jesse Goodman '06, president of Residential Council. "Hardly anyone is left sleeping on friend's couches for lack of a place to live," he said.

Unlike at many other schools, Brown has not computerized its housing lottery, and this year, for the first time, it did not allow rooms to be squatted, Goodman said.

To improve the housing situation for Brown students, Goodman said ResCouncil is currently considering implementing an online application process and reinstating squatting. ResCouncil is also looking into increasing the number of coed suites, according to Goodman. "We're currently researching our options, and hopefully next year we will work something out with (the Office of) Residential Life that will be even better for Brown students," he said.


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