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Rising third years face bleak off-campus housing approval prospects

Ariel J. Richards
Third and fourth year students compete for limited off-campus approval spots. Photo by Ariel Richards.

By Nick El Hajj

It’s the time of the year when rising fourth years not only begin to realize how old they’re becoming, but also begin to look forward to living off campus next year. However, following the trend to live off campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing crisis caused by the influx of a large first-year class and the ever-rising room and board costs, the competition to move out of the dorms is as stiff as ever.  

The Grinnell College website reads: “All full-time students are required to live in student residences. … Exceptions are also granted to a limited number of seniors and third-year students … who request and have been granted permission to live off-campus by Residence Life.” Traditionally, however, living off-campus was a privilege reserved for fourth-year students.  

Furthermore, an email sent from Residence Life reads: “Note that it is rare for rising third-year students to be granted off-campus permission. While we offer third-year students the option to make an off-campus permission request … third-year students are only released once all seniors who have requested permission have been approved.” 

This selectivity and hierarchy in selection came to the surprise and dismay of many rising third-year students who had plans to live off campus and have even already signed their leases in some cases. S&B editor Allison Moore `24 is one of these many students. 

“It is frustrating that ResLife has seemingly not been transparent enough about the process until recently, and that I may now be denied off-campus housing,” said Moore. 

Ben Short `24, who has also applied to live off campus, adds that he feels “like in the grand scheme of things the communication hasn’t been entirely clear. It was sort of a weird contrast to allow us to live off campus our third year, but then also tell us to keep our hopes low.” 

“Because we’re a residential campus, we expect that you live all four years on campus,” says Dennis Perkins, assistant dean for Residence Life at the College. “There’s a number that we are trying to meet every year, and we want to fill our beds. … We want you to be social, we want you to thrive and we believe that although it will cost more, you will get that value for your buck if you live with us on campus.” 

Despite that, many rising third years remain firm on their reasoning for deciding to live off campus, with many citing financial reasons. 

“It’s a much cheaper option for me, the rising room and board is killing my finances,” said Moore. 

“I want the opportunity to have more of my space, cook a little bit more of my meals and live with a closer group of people,” said Short. 

“ResLife is prepared to do its best to address every third year’s needs,” said Perkins. He advises students to reach out to him for case-by-case scenarios. “I can’t help every single student of course, but I can at least listen to them and try to offer alternative solutions.”  

As the College’s role as the broker between students and local landlords increases, many students are concerned about the uncertainty of their living situation. “The ambiguity of not knowing where they will end up and how the College’s behind the scenes work will play out,” says Short. 

“I wish the process wasn’t so challenging,” said Moore. “I’m curious to why they are so adamant about knowing and deciding where I’m going to be next year.”  

“We are trying our best to make this difficult process as smooth as possible. I’ll be honest, it’s a tricky situation, but that doesn’t make it impossible,” said Perkins.  

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