Web Exclusives: PawPlus

April 8, 2008:

Anxiety over graduate housing

Room draw, a stressful time for graduate students

Despite some steps to ease the housing crunch for graduate students, the room draw is expected to leave some students – especially those in their later years of study – without a campus room again this year.

According to the Housing Department, in 2007 there were 943 applications for graduate housing, and 200 – more than one-fifth – were unsuccessful, though later those students were offered housing from the wait list. An additional 343 first- and second-year graduate students were allowed to retain their apartments without applying to room draw.

The Graduate Student Government Executive Committee said in a March 10 statement that the current amount of University housing is "not sufficient," given the challenges of finding affordable off-campus apartments. "Rents in the area housing market are high, and access to affordable off-campus housing usually requires students to own cars, a particular challenge for international students," the committee said.

University housing for graduate students includes about 500 beds in the Graduate College and annexes, about 750 apartments, and about 56 graduate-student suites in the undergraduate residential colleges.

Michelle Garceau and Leah Wright, both fifth-year Ph.D. candidates, lost their apartments after the room draw last spring. Both faced many of the problems the GSG described when they moved off-campus.

Finding a new apartment within her budget proved difficult, Wright said. "I found several places for roughly what I paid in Lawrence [apartments], but most were about 13 miles away." She and her boyfriend moved into a complex in Lawrence Township where rents are significantly higher.

Garceau, who lives in Plainsboro, said the costs of commuting and the higher rent have cut into her budget. "If I had to pay student loans, like most grad students, I couldn't afford to live where I live," she said.

This year the University placed 331 first- and second-year graduate students prior to room draw and had 1,072 room-draw applications. As students awaited the room-draw results, many were worried that they would be among the unsuccessful applicants. "I'm terrified about losing my housing," said Tomiko Ballantyne, a fourth-year student. "I don't think I can afford to move off campus."

In a Feb. 28 letter to The Daily Princetonian, second-year student David Hsu expressed similar worries about the availability of graduate housing. "At the end of a long day in the lab or library," he wrote, "a bed is a bed, and it'd be swell to know that we could rely on that."

The GSG noted that the University has taken some steps to help students find off-campus housing, including hiring a manager for off-campus housing and planning education seminars on renting in the private sector. The Executive Committee said more was needed, however: "We feel the University should either provide more on-campus housing, or make off-campus housing more practical."

Andrew Kane, the University's director of housing, told the Princetonian said that in providing enough housing for about 70 percent of enrolled graduate students, "Princeton's graduate student housing program remains well ahead of the peer institutions that candidates for admission might be considering." END

By Melinda Baldwin GS