University Housing says Sheraton was part of a planned ‘overflow plan’

Georgia State students have started moving into the Sheraton as part of Georgia State’s ‘overflow plan’ to accommodate as many students into housing as possible. Many of those affected have taken to Twitter to protest the university’s practices, but the housing department claims it was all planned — and will all work out.

How applications work(ed)

In previous years, the university housing system had installed a system where applications shut down when the maximum housing capacity of students was reached. But, after cancellations and drop-outs, that left housing with over 100 vacancies at a time.

We didn’t know how many people were interested [last year] because we didn’t receive any applications. So it’s difficult to predict and project demand particularly for an instance like this,” University Housing Director Brown said. “The size of a building, how much we charge, a lot of it is based on demand, so if you don’t have the applications to support it, why would you build an 1152 beds [building] when you didn’t have the applications.”

Plus, Brown said, they wanted to make sure more students stayed in housing because they’ve seen a direct positive relationship between students who stay in dorms and higher grades, healthier social lives, and overall student success in college.

The waitlist became the framework for letting students keep applying, so that the office would recognize the demand as they received applications. But then again, the problem with wait lists, University Housing Director Randy Brown said, is that a lot of students could not afford to wait.

“When you go to a waitlist you then have to make plans for something else,” he said, referring to a large portion of out-of-state students, who could not afford to wait around for Georgia State.

What wait lists meant for Georgia State is that they were unable to retain a large portion of the students placed on the waitlist, as they made other plans, switched to other schools or found nearby apartments. So they came up with the overflow plan.

The Overflow Plan

Each year, housing experienced what Brown called “The Drop” — students that were accommodated but when move-in time came, didn’t show up, or could not, in fact, afford housing and would not pay.

In efforts to keep those students that were hard to retain while waitlisted, Georgia State instead accommodated them, expecting the usual amounts of cancellations and no-shows as in the years before.

Georgia State Housing usually receives about 1000 cancellations every fall, but has only received around 500 so far. But Brown said he feels confident that spaces will open up in the next two weeks.

“As of today we’re at maybe 510 cancellations so far,” Brown said. “We anticipate another 500 or something cancellations.”

To accommodate the 500 of 5300 students this issue impacts, rooms at the Sheraton, Piedmont North, University Commons and University Lofts have been designated as overflow locations.

For about 400 students, their temporary home will be at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, a block away from Piedmont North. Students living in the hotel will receive a prorated cost, and should be moved into university housing no later than Aug. 31. If there is still an overflow problem by then, Brown said, students will be accommodated at Piedmont North, the University Lofts and the University Commons at 4-bedroom apartments. Brown explained that the Commons students who will be giving up space, including all roommates affected, will receive a $1400 reduction of their housing rate.

Housing is responsible for the Sheraton rates, and students while at the Sheraton will have access to an unlimited meal plan at a rate of $17.58 per day. The meal plan is usable at Piedmont Central, Piedmont North and Patton Hall.

“The student experience, billing-wise, will be nothing different,” Brown said. “We’ve billed the students staying at the Sheraton a comparable rate to a shared space at Piedmont North.”

According to Brown, around 40 students have volunteered so far. In fact, he said, there were a lot of students that were excited for the opportunity to share a room with a friend, and even more were eager to receive a refund.

The Contract Catch

But the catch is, students don’t really have a choice. According to Brown, the housing contract students signs in fact allows for the department to bring in more students in times of overflow. The contract does not guarantee a whole room, but rather, a bed.

Some students tweeted out their frustration under a #gsuhousing thread, pointing out a lack of organization and communication by the university, and some said they preferred their privacy over a $1400 refund. Others simply said, they still hadn’t been offered a solution.

Darelyanel Medina said she was promised a room by housing within the first two weeks of school. But now, that promise is being changed.

“Now they’re saying I could get a room in either September or October,” she told The Signal in an e-mailed statement. “I don’t have much money to commute and my family [is] moving soon so I will have nowhere to live.”

She said she is #28 of 45 freshman females on a housing waiting list that have not been yet accommodated.

Other tweets focused on Georgia State’s lack of communication, as well as what a lot of students expressed as lack of organization. Priscila Costilla, a Georgia State student, expressed frustration at how Georgia State handled her move-in. Costilla was scheduled to move in Thursday, Aug. 17 to the Lofts at 10 a.m.

“I received an e-mail at 9:30 saying my room was not ready and that I should arrive no earlier than 4 p.m.,” she said, but added that by that point, she was already making her way Downtown. That was the first of two phone calls, followed by another employee asking her not to come before 6 p.m.

But the reason for that, Brown said, is the constant ins-and-outs of students between fall, spring and summer semesters. The Housing Director said the department is currently in communications with the Student Government Association (SGA) to prepare a town hall for students on the first week of classes, to address all issues. However, no flier has been released yet.