Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 18, 2018

$500 gift cards offered to students to cancel housing assignments

Second round of incentives appears as demand for fall on-campus housing grows

AU Housing and Dining announced a $500 gift card incentive for the first 50 students to cancel housing assignments in a June 4 email to all students with a fall housing assignment. 

The offer also includes a temporary removal of the $500 housing termination fee in an effort to accommodate the waitlist for on-campus housing. The offer is only available until June 18, and the fee will return after that date, according to the email.

This is the second time that Housing and Dining has attempted to entice students to cancel fall housing assignments. On May 4, Housing and Dining offered its first incentive for students to move off campus by waiving the housing termination fee but did not initially offer Visa gift cards to students who opted out of fall housing before a May 29 deadline.

“This year we have had an increase in demand for on-campus housing from returning and new students,” Sasha Gamburg, the Assistant Director of Operations for Assignments and Dining, wrote in an email. “Because of the increased demand for housing, we were not able to accommodate all students seeking housing.”

AU Housing and Dining explains the housing shortage on it’s website. “AU is retaining continuing students and enrolling first year and transfer students with greater success than ever before. We are also retaining more students in the residence halls as a result of their satisfaction with the experience. However, the university's current housing inventory is not sufficient to keep pace with this rapidly increasing demand,” according to the AU website.

The amount of cancellations needed to accommodate students on the waitlist changes daily, according to Gamburg. She would not give specific numbers when asked about the cancellations by The Eagle.

It is also too early to determine how many students will be living in triples, she added.

With the current offer, students who cancel their on-campus housing after the June 18 deadline will be required to pay the $500 termination fee. So far, some students have terminated their on-campus housing. Though Gamburg would not say how many have canceled housing, it is not enough to accommodate those waiting for on-campus housing, she said.

Incentives to increase on-campus housing termination have been used in the past under high demand for housing.

“A gift card incentive has been used during periods of high demand for campus housing, as recently as seven to eight years ago,” Gamburg said.

Lisa Beck, a junior in the School of Communication, said she and her roommate are not looking for off-campus housing because they expect to receive on-campus housing assignments.

“AU hasn’t notified us about [our place on] the waitlist,” Beck said. “We are pretty sure we are going to get off the waitlist.”

Historically, larger percentages of returning sophomores, juniors and seniors have opted for off-campus housing, though in recent years more students have requested on-campus housing, Gamburg said. In addition, Housing and Dining has had to previously waive housing termination fees because of increased demand for on-campus housing, Gamburg said.

Allie Erenbaum, a junior in the School of Communication, decided to maintain on-campus housing for the fall semester despite the incentives. She thought the waived termination fee was a good method to accommodate campus housing demands.

"I have always thought the $500 cancellation fee for housing has been a bit too high and often leaves students trapped in housing they may not end up wanting or needing," Erenbaum said.

ksaltzman@theeagleonline.com


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