Housing grant policy changes announced

A new version of the housing grant policy was approved for release on Tuesday, detailing changes that affect students with housing grants as they navigate the housing process. With the sophomore lottery completed and the upperclassmen lottery on February 28, there have been several questions regarding the on-campus housing process for students, specifically related to housing grants, the Greek Life Commons Agreement, and class specific restrictions on housing.

According to Vice President for Student Life, Eddie Ade Knowles, “The history of these housing grants was that they were always intended to provide students with additional assistance for meeting the cost of room and board living in Rensselaer housing.” In light of this, the revised policy states that housing grants will no longer be offered to incoming students, starting with the Class of 2014, and instead new students who qualify will receive financial assistance from Rensselaer based on the expected family contribution toward the cost of attendence and the Institute’s ability to provide such aid.

Knowles remarked that there are currently 1,346 students who have housing grants. Of those students there are 68 greeks who are living with a fraternity or sorority, and a currently unknown number of greek rising sophomores who may use their housing grants at a fraternity or a sorority house.

The changes in the revised policy affect those students who have housing grants who will be living off-campus or in greek houses. According to the statement, students with housing grants will retain their grant as long as they continue to live in a Rensselaer residence commons as an undergraduate.

It states that, “Any continuing student who has been accepted as a member of a fraternity or sorority that has signed the Greek Life Commons Agreement will be permitted to live in the house and continue to receive a housing grant while enrolled as an undergraduate, for a maximum of five years.” The maximum payment from the grant will not be permitted to surpass the value of the pre-existing housing grant or the base-line cost of living in the fraternity or sorority. Additionally, billing will continue to be done through the Bursar’s Office.

The statement also specified that students can use their housing grants to purchase a Rensselaer meal plan if they can show proof that, as of February 16, they have already signed leases to live off-campus during the 2010–2011 academic year. This exception will only apply for the 2010–2011 academic year and students who wish to retain their housing grants past this upcoming academic year are expected to participate in the Residence Commons Room Selection and Lottery Process.

Those students who go through the lottery process but are unable to obtain a bed, and have not already signed an off-campus lease by February 16, will receive 50 precent of the housing grant for one semester with the balance of that student’s unmet need to be determined by the Office of Financial Aid.

In a meeting with representatives of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils last Wednesday, Knowles and Vice President for Enrollment Paul Marthers addressed concerns and questions regarding the housing process. Specifically, Knowles stated that once he has sent an official communication to the greek community announcing the changes to the housing grant policy, greek chapters would have a week from that communication to sign the Greek Life Commons Agreement. Additionally, Knowles anticipates that he, Marthers, and Vice President for Administration Claude Rounds would be communicating with the greater student community regarding the changes in the near future.

In addition to the housing grant policy changes, the lottery process is underway with the completion of the sophomore lottery on February 4–6. According to Associate Dean of Residence Life Amanda Bingel, the Polytechnic Residence Commons are completely filled and the Blitman Commons have a few vacancies that will be available for the upperclassmen room selection. Referring to the sophomore lottery, Acting Assistant Vice President for Student Life Tom Tarantelli stated, while high lottery numbers may have prevented some students from getting their desired rooms, “… we will do what we can to try to accommodate them.” All of the sophomores who attended the lottery were assigned rooms, and while there are still some sophomore room assignments pending, Bingel attributed it to uncertainty about housing through the Greek Life Commons Agreement.

As for upperclassmen, lottery signups continue through February 23. Bingel anticipates that “… we’ll be filled to capacity or close to capacity this year.” She noted that there is an information session on February 17 at 8 pm in Union Room 3606 for students to ask questions.

Bingel stated that Residence Life has seen “… increased traffic on phones and e-mails from students and parents about changes to the housing process.” She continued, “We’re doing our best to respond to everything in as timely a manner as we can.”