How Fair is the Lottery System of Housing Selection?

By DAHLIA DEHAAN // APRIL 13, 2016 //

Curry College, a school with relatively poor academic outcomes as well as a poor retention rate, uses a system for student housing that does not reward academic achievement nor encourages student involvement and leadership on campus.

At Curry College housing selection is an event, which students must attend in person. Curry uses a completely random lottery system when determining which students get to pick their dorms first. The lower your number, the better room you will get.

In determining the order in which students select on-campus housing, some colleges factor in grade point averages as well as extracurricular involvement and leadership roles on campus, said Jennifer Maitino, director of Residence Life and Housing at Curry College. Other schools penalize students for violating the code of conduct. However, “I have yet to encounter a perfect system,” said Maitino.

Maitino explained that Curry College has no immediate plans to change the housing selection process, because Residence Life and Housing has not heard feedback from students who want to see changes. If an on-campus group such as Student Government Association (SGA) were to propose a specific change to the housing selection process, “we would certainly be open to exploring options,” Maitino stated.

In the lottery system of housing selection at Curry College, a student’s GPA or campus involvement have no impact on what rank lottery number a student is assigned. Sophomore Communication major Molly Fanikos believes housing selection should take GPA into account.

“I don’t think it is fair that kids who work [extremely hard] to get good grades could end up in worse housing than those who don’t care and party all the time,” Fanikos said. “If people want to live in a nicer dorm, they should have to work for it.”

Freshman Psychology major Dayna Smith has a different opinion. “Just because someone is smarter and gets better grades doesn’t mean they deserve better housing. Random is the most fair way,” she said.

Smith was one of the Curry students who voted in a Twitter poll that asked Curry College students, “Is the lottery system of housing selection fair?” The results: 59% answered “Yes; random is fair” while the remaining 41% said “No; [housing selection should] consider GPA, credits.”

Sophomore Communication major Jimmy Bonneau considers the lottery system of housing selection fair because everyone has an equal chance of getting the first lottery number.

Bonneau believes it would be unfair if housing selection was done according to GPA, because some classes and some majors are more challenging than others. That would benefit students who take low-level classes and get high, unweighted grades, in comparison to students who challenge themselves academically by taking more difficult courses, which require a lot more work and dedication.

Freshman Information Technology major Max Bramble feels as though the lottery system of housing selection is not particularly fair because the incoming freshman class of 2020 will be placed into better dorms than the current students (rising seniors, juniors and sophomores), which will not make underclassmen want to stay at Curry after the first year.

Bramble noted that this preference to freshmen over current students could easily affect the retention rate, which is already considered low. The college’s retention rate — the percent of first-year students who return for a second year — has been around 70 percent for many years now. The administration is currently working to improve that rate, but as Maitino of Residence Life noted, housing selection isn’t yet part of the discussion.

Curry Housing Selection Concludes, Leaving Some Wanting More

BY COLE McNANNA // APRIL 9, 2016 //

While our culture has a tendency to obsess over “who’s first,” very little attention is paid to who is last.

Just four days ago, the housing selection kicked off for the fall 2016 semester, and the highly anticipated excel spreadsheet was gratifyingly projected onto the hanging screen in the Dr. Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Gymnasium.

Community Director Tom Sawicki manned the microphone and organized the masses into lines according to the oh-so-coveted lottery numbers.

Ah yes, the fateful Lottery Number. The random number given to students (who pay their housing deposit on time) that is the deciding factor as to whether you’ll be close to your friends, or classes, in the coming year.

A very different looking gymnasium, set up for the housing selection process // Photo by Cole McNanna
A very different looking gymnasium, set up for the housing selection process // Photo by Cole McNanna

Those with the lowest numbers ensure that they will be getting the best selection, and those in the middle are left in limbo; until the time comes for them to condense into a line to see what’s still available.

Roommates can help each other out, and the higher-numbered roommate can ride the coattails of their more fortunate roommate and avoid being separated. However, as the lottery numbers continued to increase, the number of students did not match that pace.

With many of the upperclassmen housing having already been selected, current sophomore Alex Paul from Brooklyn, New York stepped into line a little bit before 9 p.m. to find he was left with very limited options.

His assigned pick, #330, was not the last registered number, but he was surely the last junior participant – for, as far as the eyes could see, hordes of freshmen accounted for the gymnasium’s remaining population.

The line had constantly been filling up and quieting down since the night had begun, but Paul was last one to join the line and he settled for a room with a random roommate in White House on the South Side of campus.

One of the last students goes to see where he will be living // Photo by Cole McNanna
One of the last students goes to see where he will be living // Photo by Cole McNanna

Not only was he the last rising junior to pick, he is one of the oldest in the class – having already turned 21. Being a transfer student-athlete on the basketball team, Paul was placed in State House for this past academic year.

“It was unfortunate this year because I’m a transfer and they put me in State House… I’m 21, and they put me in State House,” Paul said in disbelief, after it was all said and done. “I’m gonna be 22 next year and I feel like if you’re older you should have that housing [on the south side].”

Paul added that “it was unfortunate this year…I can’t say that I’m happy, I just wish I got up there…What are the odds?”

One positive out of Paul’s situation was that he was not the absolute final person to select their housing. That distinct privilege belongs to 18 year-old freshman Anthony Nolasco, hailing from Beverley, Mass.

Nolasco, also a student-athlete on the football team, joined the line over two hours after his older teammate to see even fewer options.

The gymnasium had now seen hundreds of students select their housing for next year and Nolasco’s pick (#377) was the final one of the night — much to the jubilation of the Residence Life staff who had been carrying out the selection process for the duration of the two-day period.

Nolasco, who currently resides in Lombard Hall, saw plenty of rooms that he wanted to live in. He said he had originally hoped to live in 886 Brush Hill Road. Nolasco said he wanted that location because he likes the building, and all of his friends will be living there.

Instead, he had to accept a room in State House, (coincidentally, the same room number as his room this past year) where he will be “all alone. No friends. Stuck with freshmen.”

“It was very bad, seeing everything disappear and getting your hopes up for a room and it’s gone,” Nolasco said, snapping his fingers. He went on to say that, “You get to slowly watch everyone take the room that you wanted.”

Despite drawing the shortest straw possible, Nolasco did find solace in the Residence Life staff who were “very nice” in handling the culmination of an exhausting two-night, fast-paced marathon Lottery Draft.

These two young men now hold the distinct honor in being the 2016 Housing Lottery Selection’s equivalent of the NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant.

They can only get better numbers next year, right?

On-Campus Housing Demand Breaks Record

BY BRANDAN BLOM // APRIL 21, 2015 //

Say what you will about Curry College residence halls. Some are in need of great repair—perhaps even demolition. But more students than ever before want to live on campus.

According to the office of Residence Life, a record 1,016 students placed on-time housing deposits this spring, up from 970 last year and 816 in 2013.

Stephanie Alliette, assistant director of Residence Life, says the increased demand is the result of several factors, including larger freshmen classes, improved retention rates—meaning the percent of first-year students who return to Curry for a second year—and greater student engagement in and around the residence halls.

The new Bell Hall has great amenities. // PHOTO COURTESY OF CURRY COLLEGE
The new Bell Hall has great amenities. // PHOTO COURTESY OF CURRY COLLEGE

“Part of the retention process overall is to get students to want to stay on campus,” said Alliette. “I think it’s a variety of initiatives. It comes from academics, all the way to what we do in Residence Life….The quality of our RAs is increasing. If we have better RAs in the halls, better pro staff there offering better programs and building better communities, we find that is very enticing.”

Armand Wilson, a sophomore IT major, said he’s excited that more students are choosing to live on campus, as opposed to commute from home. With more people around on campus, the college can build a better social experience for students, he said.

“I would think that if there were more students on campus it would be easier to find people who have similar interests,” said Wilson.

According to sophomore Steven DePina, the convenience that comes with living on campus is what attracted him to stay on campus. “It is so much easier to wake up, go to the Student Center for food, and go to class,” he said. “You don’t have to deal with traffic or having to take the bus.”

As sophomores Wilson and DePina are part the largest returning class at Curry. Alliette said 447 current sophomores placed on-time housing deposits this year. To handle the increased demand for junior beds next year, Residence Life plans to reallocate buildings. Brown, Green, Gray and a portion of North will be used for junior housing, she said.

“But that’s also because we introduced Bell Hall [this year], which is primary sophomore beds,” she added.

Bell Hall provides 162 sophomore beds and six RA beds. Overall, Curry features 1,599 beds.

Alliette said some students have been assigned to live in residence hall common rooms, which will be converted into dorm rooms, but expects they will be moved into traditional dorm rooms before the start of the fall semester. Every year, she reported, a certain number of students change their minds and opt to live off campus, or fail to return to Curry for any number of reasons.

How to Survive the Curry Housing Lottery

BY COLE MCNANNA // FEB. 26, 2015 //

Among the stresses of college, the annual Housing Lottery is among the greatest. This “Hunger Games”-esque competition—no blood is ever drawn, but emotions do run high—pits Curry students against one another in a lottery system-based battle for on-campus housing.

There are plenty of deadlines to meet and forms to fill out, and each one is just as important as the last. It is all laid out on the myCurry portal. As you log in, there is a light bulb on the right-hand side of the page that brings you to the deadlines page. That explains when payments and agreements need to be completed. Here are a few key dates and requirements:

The new Bell Hall has great amenities. // PHOTO COURTESY OF CURRY COLLEGE
The new Bell Hall has great amenities. // PHOTO COURTESY OF CURRY COLLEGE

March 1: Deadline to submit necessary forms for special housing accommodations due to disabilities

March 25: Deadline to submit $300 housing deposit

March 30: By 4 p.m., random housing lottery numbers will be posted on the portal

April 1: Deadline to submit application for suites housing. All students wanting to live in suites must fill out the application

April 8: Suites and single-room selection

April 9: General housing selection

If students miss the deposit deadline, they can still apply to live on campus. But they’ll be placed wherever there is space at the conclusion of housing selection. Students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits while living on campus.

The lottery system is based on how many credits students have earned. They are given a housing location and roommate if they don’t choose for themselves. Students who are currently juniors have the most credits and are given first choice in housing, followed by current sophomores, then freshmen. Students incoming next fall are factored into room availability.

Many upperclassmen wish to get housing in the suites, which hold six people in a room—three double bedrooms and a common room—on the south side of campus. If not the suites, South Campus Residence Hall (SCRH) is a popular location for upperclassmen.

Sophomores typically end up in either 886 on the north side of campus or the new Bell Hall behind the Student Center in the center of campus. Others are placed in houses with smaller numbers of people close to the Student Center, such as the Green, Grey and Brown houses. Incoming freshmen are put in housing on the north side of campus, either in State, Lombard, Mayflower, North Campus Residence Hall (NCRH) or scholars. The rest of the housing list is available on the Curry page in the Residence Halls tab.

Upperclassmen are drawn to the Suites and SCRH because of the freedom to room with plenty of friends. Typically, sports teams will room together. 886 is a hot commodity because of its location, which is not far from either the Academic Quad or the Student Center. On the other hand, Bell Hall is brand new and is fashioned with and kitchens and TV’s in the common rooms. Its location is the only semi-negative, as it is a hilly walk away from the Quad and Kennedy building, where almost classes are held.

If students keep up with deadlines and fill out all necessary forms, they should be placed in the residence hall of their choice with the roommate(s) of their choice. And like Katniss Everdeen, they’ll live to tell a tale of how they survived the lottery.

Bed, Wrath and Beyond

BY HALEY LORGE // MAY 7, 2014 //

After receiving their housing lottery numbers this spring, Curry College residential students scrambled to make plans for next year. However, things haven’t gone quite as planned for everybody.

Twenty current rising juniors have no place to live on campus next year because of a shortage in residential housing, even though the college is currently building a new 168-bed dormitory next to the Student Center. According to the assistant dean of students for residence life & housing, Erik Muurisepp, Curry enjoyed a record year for on-time housing deposits, with a total of 970 payments for the academic year 2014-15.

Oscarina Polonio is among the rising juniors on the “to-be-housed” list. “I was very upset that I was put on the waiting list for my junior year, knowing there was available space, but they wanted sophomores to get housing,” Polonio said.

Artist's rendering
Artist’s rendering

There has been a lot of concern about on-campus housing at Curry in recent years. The college has worked to improve its student retention rate—defined by the number of first-year students who return for a second year; the current rate is 65.6 percent—while at the same time it has increased its accepted student rate, which was 84 percent last year. According to the Admissions Department, 695 first-year students have placed their deposit to attend Curry in the fall. That’s 85 more first-year students than just two years ago.

Such growth has resulted in students living in converted common rooms in the residence halls and even in area hotel rooms rented by the school. Students who submit their housing deposits on time are guaranteed housing by the college.

The new dormitory should help ease the crunch, but the building is far from complete; construction only began in late March. College administrators have been adamant that the dorm would be finished by the start of the fall semester, but rising sophomores who recently chose rooms in the new building were required to pick an alternative space in case the building wasn’t ready. Those students had a choice between a converted common room in 886 or North Campus Residence Hall, or a hotel room at the Courtyard Marriott in Stoughton.

Muurisepp said common rooms would revert back to study areas as soon as the new building is ready.

Curry makes annual projections of which academic class will need the most housing, based on residential retention rates. Muurisepp said the demand is usually in sophomore housing. Of the students who turned in their deposits on time this year, 422 were rising sophomores. Combined, rising juniors and rising seniors accounted for 442.

Other changes to housing include:

  • North Campus Residence Hall will now only house freshmen, as opposed to a mix of freshmen and sophomores.
  • Green House and Brown House, which have traditionally housed sophomores, will now house juniors.
  • There will be 61 Resident Assistants next year, up from 55 this academic year.

How it Works

With the new building, the school will have 1,599 beds. However, not all beds are equal.

According to the Curry College website, a room is $7,580 plus a $400 refundable residence hall damage deposit. This is the standard rate for doubles in first-year dorms, North Campus Residence Hall, and the sophomore houses. However, at the bottom of the page, the college states that the room cost listed is only standard and may increase depending on room assignments.

What the website does not mention is that there is a total of seven rates for housing, which will increase to nine with the new building. The rates for rooms in 886, the Suites, South Campus Residence Hall, and the new building are higher. South Campus Residence Hall is the most expensive, followed by the Suites, and then 886. Singles are also more expensive than a double or triple in each dorm.

Muuriespp said the new building will be priced between 886 and the Suites, but the college is offering a discounted rate next year that will be the same as 886.

Housing selection at Curry is done by random lottery. Students are assigned a number and choose their residence hall in that order. But some students believe this isn’t the best process, particularly at a college with a poor retention rate.

“I don’t think it’s right that students who choose not to go to class or [not to] get involved could get better rooms than students who work hard and make deans list,” said Colleen McMahon, a freshman nursing major, who advocates for a system based on GPA.

McMahon and her current roommate, Karyn Colomey, received the lottery numbers 259 and 402, respectively. By the time they got to choose a residence hall, their only option was to split up and live in rooms with people they did not know. Both women are working with school officials to find a double room. Otherwise, they said, they might opt to live off campus next year.

Another challenge to changes on campus is alcohol. One of the appeals of junior and senior housing is living on the south side of campus, where a room may have alcohol in it if everyone there is 21. Many students turn 21 during their junior year, so they want to live on south side. Muurisepp said the college would likely re-evaluate the alcohol policies for the juniors living on central campus, defined as the residence halls surrounding the Student Center.

Ultimately, Muurisepp said, all times of change involve a certain degree of uncertainty. “My motto is, ‘Trust the process,’” Muurisepp said. “The process works, and 90 percent of the time it works itself out.”