Streamlined housing draw to occur simultaneously across colleges
After housing shortages forced many students out of their residential colleges last spring, administrators told the News that they are evaluating the current housing draw, which will now run on the same timeline for all residential colleges.
Robbie Short, Senior Photographer
Last spring, Carly Benson ’24 joined a lottery to get a sextet in Berkeley College and lost. Benson was then given 48 hours to decide if she wanted to live in McClellan Hall on Old Campus or move off campus. She ended up accepting the offer to live in McClellan.
Benson was only one of many members of the class of 2024 who dealt with housing shortages, pushing them to find housing off campus or be annexed into another residential college or onto Old Campus. These shortages have led to New Haven residents and Yalies having to compete for limited space.
“A lot of the people I live with in McClellan will say that they don’t feel connected to Berkeley, because we just don’t go,” Benson said.
Looking towards next spring, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis told the News that the housing process will now be on a standardized timeline for all residential colleges, among other changes a current committee on housing is examining.
Head of Saybrook College Thomas Near, who led a committee to give recommendations to Lewis, told the News the goals emphasized centralizing and accelerating the housing process, especially given changes in the New Haven housing market and the varied timelines among colleges.
Near’s recommendations are now under review under a separate committee focused on implementation.
In the past, Near said, while some colleges, including Saybrook College, conducted their housing draws around spring break, others did not finish until mid to late April. Near explained that the changes coming in the spring are “important” and a “punctuated jump.” Lewis told the News that he hopes students will know where they are living by early April.
Benson said last year’s process was “very confusing,” especially because some colleges did not know how many spots they had or how many students would be annexed until the housing draw. She also said the housing draw’s method and platforms varies among colleges.
According to Benson, lining up the timelines and accelerating the housing process is a “good idea” and will give people more information on if and where they will be annexed.
This coming spring, Near said the colleges will not know how many juniors and seniors they can house until after juniors and seniors declare whether they want to live on or off campus. This process is typically “well before” the housing draw, according to Near.
This past spring, Trumbull College, which typically conducts their housing draw in early April, required juniors and seniors to declare their intent to live on or off campus by March 18.
“Part of [of the motivation for] accelerating the timeline and making it uniform is to give that insight to particularly the rising juniors so that you know that they have full agency to explore other housing options,” Near told the News, “Given the occupancy rate of housing in New Haven, there seems to be an arms race towards earlier earlier leases for on campus housing.”
While Near said his involvement is over given he has already submitted his committee’s findings to Lewis, he said he hopes that he housing draw takes place before spring break, or that at least some of the work, such as group formation — where students declare who they plan to live with — can happen over the two-week spring break.
Lewis, however, told the News that they are still working on the “technical dimensions” of new housing plans, but they are aiming for consistency across colleges and creating a centralized database, the need for which he said was one of his main takeaways from heads, deans, administrative staff and students.
“We’re just trying to look at a way to systematize that a little bit so that it’s more the process is more consistent across all the colleges,” Lewis told the News, “That doesn’t guarantee that everybody’s getting the housing they want, but at least as long as the process is relatively consistent and fair, hopefully people feel it’s equitable.”
Near said there is “no cost” of declaring intention of living on campus and getting an idea of the oversubscription. This year, the excess demand, Near said, will be higher than past years, given the larger size of the class of 2025. However, Near emphasized that oversubscription in the housing draw is not new.
“This is not endemic. This is not due to an increased enrollment. Yale has always needed 11 or 12 or 13 percent of our students at minimum to live off campus just because we don’t have the room,” Near said.
Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Communications Paul McKinley also emphasized this is not a new problem, as the shortage of housing, especially for juniors, was already a problem when he served as dean of Saybrook College from 1997 to 2012.
However, McKinley said this “built-in squeeze” for juniors has “only intensified” in recent years.
Lewis added that he anticipates the problem will get better after this draw in the spring given how the large size of 2025 is mostly due to students who chose to take gap years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, students, especially members of the class of 2025, remain concerned about the possibility of not living in their residential college.
Karley Yung ’25 wrote to the News she is concerned about the housing capacity as a current sophomore.
“I’m definitely a little nervous about the housing draw,” Yung told the News. “Given that the class of 2025 is larger than usual, I think it will be very likely that a good amount of annexing or off campus housing is necessary.”
Yung wrote that living off campus would be an “unideal circumstance,” as she currently lives in Berkeley’s North Court, a central location for her. She also raised concerns of living in McClellan where some Berkeley students typically get annexed to, as it does not have suites with a common room. In addition, Yung wrote that off-campus living includes accessibility issues, as well as consequences for her relationship to Berkeley and Yale broadly.
“I think I would definitely spend less time in Berkeley if I was off-campus,” Yung wrote. “I may also feel less inclined to attend Yale events if their locations on campus are far from somewhere I’d live off-campus.”
Arantxa Galvan ’25, who is in Timothy Dwight College, told the News she is not only worried about securing housing, but she also finds this problem unfair given that not all colleges face the same shortages and housing accommodations to begin with, explaining that if she were annexed, she would be annexed out of a situation that is “already tight,” given that the the rooms in Timothy Dwight are much smaller than those in other colleges, according to Galvan.
In addition, Galvan said if she were annexed it would make her relationship to Timothy Dwight “gone.”
“The main part of a residential college is the fact that you live there,” Galvan said. “Everything else is kind of side benefits. You live there and because you live there, it’s great because your dining hall is there. You have this art studio, there’s a music practice room…but if you don’t live there, and all those benefits, it’s just basically a different building.”
Galvan and Yung also raised concerns regarding how off-campus housing comes with added expenses and may be hard to navigate, especially for students not familiar with or without support to help with finding housing.
“It does raise a lot of issues as to who can afford to live off campus,” Galvan said. “What does the situation look like for people … that are being annexed if they can’t afford to have their own apartment or whatever? Then they’re just being put into a corner.”
Yung agreed with Galvan and added that she does not feel off-campus housing is “entirely accessible,” given the range of prices, sizes, and locations of housing options.
Yale’s financial aid policy calculates the estimated cost of attendance as the same for students living on or off campus which is $18,450 per year for housing and meals. If a student on financial aid has scholarship support over $65,151, they can request any expenses over $65,151 as a refund for off-campus expenses.
Even as students fear the possibility of being annexed or pushed off campus, Near said the probability of students being completely pushed off campus, without an option to be annexed, is “pretty low.” He added that the problem of students losing connections with their residential college, like Benson has experienced, is a “two way street” where responsibility lies on both the staff of the college and the students themselves.
“If a student is mindful, like if it’s important to them, they will remain engaged with their college, regardless of their annex housing or living off campus,” Near told the News.
As more students may have to move off campus, Near expressed support for finding ways to educate students about how to find off campus housing. However, Near said the landscape of housing changes quickly, and there is a lot of “social and cultural” knowledge on campus that helps students learn how to find off-campus accommodations.
Yale’s first residential colleges opened in 1933.