Students face search for housing on and off campus

Xanayra Marin-Lopez, Multimedia Editor

Many students start seeking housing for their next academic year in their first fall semester. Freshmen can feel overwhelmed suddenly having to go through the rental process within their first few months of coming to college. 

All incoming first-year students are required to live on campus and guaranteed housing their first year at App State.

“The communities our students become a part of, and the educational components provided to them in residence halls during their first year as Mountaineers, is one factor that contributes to Appalachian’s exceptional retention and graduation rates, which far exceed national averages. For this reason, we prioritize housing first-year students,” said Megan Hayes, vice chancellor and chief communications officer.

Maddie Vargas, director of external affairs for the Student Government Association, said applying for housing as early as October isn’t as urgent as students may think. 

“Some of it has to do with realtors promoting and sending advertising out so early. Applications are opening far much earlier now,” Vargas said.

Because applications are opening earlier, students feel that they have to secure a spot quicker. Vargas said that there are still spaces available after October and there is no need to apply so early.

Ana Lopez, a first-year student, found her future home off-campus, but it came with more work than she expected.

“Everyone was telling me that you have to look at all of this a year ahead, so I was stressing. Over winter break I worked two shifts a day every day, except for on Christmas, just to pay the security deposit,” Lopez said.

Lopez plans to live with three other roommates in a house rather than an apartment, a route she feels is more cost-effective. According to ResidentShield.com, houses cost less than apartments in rural areas. 

Transfer students, students with housing scholarships, and those who belong to programs such as the Honors College and Watauga Residential College also receive priority for on-campus housing.

Students who currently live on campus and want to again next year reapplied through University Housing’s lottery system. The online application closed Jan. 31.

However, no upperclassmen are guaranteed a space in a residence hall. University Housing’s website reads, “Completing the housing application does not obligate you to live on campus; it gives you the opportunity to select on-campus housing if you receive an invitation to do so later in the reapplication process.”

Students received invitations to live on campus beginning mid-February. If a student receives an invitation, they have 48 hours to log in to the online portal, select a room and confirm their space for next year. If not done within that time frame, the invitation will expire. Students without luck receive a notice indicating they were not selected.

Sophomore Imajin Graham currently lives in Lovill Hall and was successful in reapplying for housing for her junior year. Graham received an invitation to live in Mountaineer Hall and plans to accept, despite one drawback.

“They had a policy last year where you could choose your roommate, but now they’ve changed it to where both of the roommates have to have reapplied. It just makes a lot more trouble for people who want to live on campus and be with someone who they’re comfortable with,” Graham said.  

Graham said that last year it was easier to request a roommate when reapplying for on-campus housing. This year, both students have to be invited in order to select each other as a roommate.

Students not invited to receive on-campus housing have the option to appeal. A student may choose to appeal if they hold a significant need to be housed on campus, usually for financial reasons.

When reviewing financial appeals, University Housing focuses on those with a higher financial need in cooperation with the Office of Financial Aid. It is possible to appeal for reasons other than money, and these are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Appeals are granted to students based on the number of beds left.

In January, University Housing presented SGA with data about on-campus beds. There are 5,674 beds on campus. With the construction of new residence halls, 6,170 beds are expected to be available in fall 2020 and projected 3,900 incoming freshmen. This leaves approximately 2,000 spaces for students other than freshmen.

Off-Campus Student Services is a part of the Division of Student Affairs and a partner program of the Student Legal Clinic.. 

The office’s website is home to off-campus housing resources, like the information exchange page, a site for students to both give and get information on rental experiences and student ratings. It also has a searchable database of available rental properties, including listings by rental companies and posts by students looking to sublease or who need a roommate.

The information exchange operates on a five-point scale based on averaged responses to the initial survey question asking students to rate their overall satisfaction with the rental unit. Many recognizable companies are rated here such as The Cottages of Boone, receiving a 2.9, and Brown Heights, earning a 4.35.

Director of Off-Campus Student Services and attorney Karla Rusch offers students the opportunity to have their lease read by appointment through the Student Legal Clinic.

“These leases are usually dense. I’ll talk to students about what the North Carolina law says about tenants’ rights,” Rusch said.

Hidden Creek Management is one of many property management companies App State students can rent from.

Allyson Hartley, assistant property manager, stresses the legalities in signing a lease. 

“We want everyone to understand the gravity of signing a lease agreement and its legal implications. It is especially important to remember when leasing a property that the lease we use is jointly and severally liable, meaning that everyone on the lease is equally responsible for all the term,” Hartley said.

Boone High Country Rentals is another choice for students. 

Cassandra Clifford, leasing coordinator for BHCR, said their applications opened in October and many spots sold in November, though students are still reaching out about renting from the company now. 

Jojo Muldoon, property manager, said current BHCR tenants areasking to sign their lease for the next year, with the competitive market in mind.

Vargas said she wants students to know that there are still opportunities for housing in February. In January, SGA and Off-Campus Student Services hosted a housing fair with over twenty rental companies. Many still had spots available for students.

For students currently seeking housing, Clifford said, “The biggest thing I try to stress is follow-ups. It’s a competitive market and your spot can be taken. Get your paperwork in on time.”