Barnard administrators went the extra mile to avoid a repeat of last year’s housing crisis.
Administrators collaborated with the office of admissions and study abroad, mandating students planning to study abroad to confirm decisions earlier and withdraw their housing requests. The policies also altered the housing cancelation fee to incentivize earlier room cancellation.
“We really appreciate how our students stepped up and took these deadlines seriously because it has made a big difference in our planning process,” Barnard College Dean Avis Hinkson, BC ’84, said in an email to Spectator, noting that the Office of Admissions also “closely monitored yield rates to arrive as close as possible to our ideal incoming class size.”
Last summer, Barnard changed 56 corner singles in Plimpton into doubles, making the building one of the least popular options among students last spring, leaving plenty of rooms open to rising sophomores who were last to pick in the housing lottery.
In 2011, a shortage of available rooms caused Barnard to convert several lounges in the Barnard Quad into four-person rooms.
Alice Griffin, BC ’15, had a lottery number that put her among the last 50 students in her class to select housing. She chose to live in a Plimpton double, which she said, though small, isn’t all that bad.
Her room is equipped with new furniture, including two lofted beds with dressers underneath and newly installed shelving to make up for the fact that there’s no space for bookcases.
“I would say it’s not very claustrophobic, but it could be to many people. I kind of like close spaces in some sense, so it’s not a problem for me,” Griffin said, adding that she prefers to do schoolwork in her room, but won’t choose to do so this year.
“I will probably be doing a lot in the library just so I can spread out more with my work,” she said, adding that when two of her suitemates go abroad in the spring, she is considering buying out her double or trying to move into a single that will open up.
The past housing crises have trickled down to change residence hall dynamics.
“There’s actually a ton of sophomores living in this building,” Katie Dinerman, BC ’16, said. “Pretty much all of my floor from last year is in this building.”
A handful of Columbia students who intended to live in the Zeta Beta Tau house this fall are also living in Plimpton, following the loss of the fraternity’s brownstone.
Barnard administrators claimed that last year’s housing shortage was largely due to a higher-than-expected class yield coupled with significantly fewer housing cancellations than in previous years. To reduce the risk of a third straight year of a housing shortage, Barnard admitted 20.5 percent of its 5,606 applicants—the largest applicant pool ever, and the most competitive acceptance rate to date. The class of 2017 comprises 585 students, down from 605 students in the class of 2016.
“It bears repeating that last year’s housing crisis was really an anomaly: a perfect storm of factors including lower-than-usual study abroad numbers, larger-than-usual yields for two entering classes in a row, and more returning and readmitted students opting to live on-campus,” Hinkson said. “Every year is different and predicting the variables is always a challenge—our hope is that the changes we’ve implemented will continue to help us accurately manage and accommodate housing needs.”