Every year within a few weeks of the start of school, the hysteria begins. The scramble for off-campus housing has sophomores and returning renters convinced they need to sign leases now, eight months before they even begin. It happens every year and needs to end as students may actually be doing themselves a disservice by continuing this chaotic tradition.
A few weeks after moving in with new roommates whom you may, or may not, turn out to like, students start signing contracts that won’t begin for more than half a year. This means you may be stuck with that insufferable roommate for another year.
Contractually tying yourself to a roommate for a year and half — on top of the year you just began — may seem daunting, but in actuality it is just one of many adverse consequences of the early signing dates.
The first, and most important, consequence is financial. When students rush to sign leases eight months in advance, they create a short period of intense demand. This higher demand causes prices to increase. While factors like increased taxation, higher assessments and insurance also contribute to the rising cost of rent, students are likely to get a better deal if they wait a few months.
Another adverse consequence of the early signing date is that students do not have time to shop around to find the best deals for themselves. Are you looking for a furnished or unfurnished apartment? Would you like utilities and cable included in rent or would you rather they be separate? What location will best fit your schedule next year?
These questions cannot be answered by visiting one apartment or one house and feeling pressured into signing because the landlord has other prospective renters.
Stacie Dooley, the associate dean for University Apartments and Off-Campus Student Services, said there is no need for students to rush to find housing early in the fall semester for the next academic year. In fact, last June there were a plethora of properties still available to rent for this school year. They ranged from studios to four-bedroom apartments and even a seven-bedroom house.
The myth that if you don’t sign soon, you’ll end up on 27th Street and Highland Avenue is asinine. While enrollment increased over the past few years, there is still plenty of off-campus housing to support Marquette’s student body.
The process for Marquette-owned campus apartments does not begin until October — still early, but not on the scale of many off-campus properties. According to Dooley, Marquette tried to move housing assignments back to January one year — still far in advance of other universities like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which doesn’t begin its campus housing program until March. Yet, Dooley said the university was left with a surplus of vacancies as students panicked and signed off-campus contracts for the following year early in the first semester.
With the exception of commuters, this problem affects all Marquette students at one point or another. While the university can only do so much to mitigate the adverse effects of the early off-campus signing dates, namely educating students about signing leases and researching apartments, it is up to students to take it upon themselves to stop, take a step back, and avoid the chaotic panic that the search for off-campus housing has become.