The Daily Gamecock

Column: USC over-admitting freshmen is creating housing confusion, shortages for upperclassmen

For every single student looking to live on campus, housing is a necessity. 

But finding on-campus housing as an upperclassman has become a much more difficult process due to a lack of planning and organization from USC's housing department.

As freshman class sizes are increasing, housing options for upperclassmen have diminished. 

“It makes me feel very (insecure) about my housing situation," said Allie Place, a second-year international business and operations and supply chain management student. "Housing is a very important part of being a student."

Place, an out-of-state student from Chicago, said she is waiting to hear back from the university through its new lottery-style application.

In past years, students who were enrolled in the university could select on-campus housing options for the next year through the USC Housing Portal in October. But this year, the selection was pushed back nearly two months, and the university introduced a new system. 

The new system only guarantees a place for those who were randomly selected instead of every applicant. 

Yet, housing did not go into detail as to how this process would specifically work. 

Rather than creating a housing solution for the large number of upperclassman students who are looking for campus housing, the university has resorted to chance. But University Housing hasn't specified how the lottery system works when it comes to selecting students.

All students are able to fill out the initial part of the application, but only a select number will be able to fill out the second part, university spokesperson Collyn Taylor said in an email to The Daily Gamecock.

Housing is not guaranteed for all who apply. Only those applicants who were selected to fill out the second part will be getting a secured on-campus housing spot. 

Some students, such as Place, find the lack of transparency from USC Housing frustrating.

Housing is an important aspect of the college experience, especially for out-of-state students, who are already paying tuition at a higher rate. Out-of-state students make up 47% of the student population, according to a 2023 statement released by the university.

Moreover, in-state and out-of-state students are facing equally slim options when it comes to on-campus living. 

“We thought that our options would be Park Place or East Quad, but then after doing more research and talking to others, we discovered that East Quad is now going to be just freshman housing,” said Miranda Knowles, a second-year operations and supply chain management student.

Knowles said she is waiting to see if she will win a housing spot through the new lottery system as housing choices become more exclusive.

All upperclassman students who want to live on campus and who are not in the Honors College or Capstone program have only one option as to where they can live during the next academic year — Park Place.

Upperclassmen are guaranteed more housing options if they apply and are accepted to be a resident assistant, an on-campus job that many students choose to pursue.

Park Place is one of the most expensive on-campus housing locations. East Quad, which is located on the main campus and used to be available to upperclassmen, will now be housing for only first-year students beginning next semester, according to the university's housing website.

“We're the No. 1 university for the freshman year experience,” Knowles said. “Which is great, but then, as soon as we are upperclassmen, it feels like the university is not prioritizing us as much.”

University Housing continues to set its focus on first-year classes and accommodating more students.  

“USC's continued to see the size of its freshman class grow annually, including enrolling the largest in the university’s history this fall at over 7,300 freshmen," Taylor said.

Admitting more students means that the university needs more beds to house such numbers. Upperclassmen have been increasingly pressured to move elsewhere due to a lack of available housing on campus. But this isn't financially and logistically possible for every single student.  

These large freshman class sizes are pushing upperclassmen off of campus and into houses and apartments in the nearby area. Due to the high demand for these properties, rent continues to increase in nearby buildings.

As the freshman student population increases, the university must find ways to support a larger student population.

The shortage of on-campus housing due to the growth of freshmen stems from a lack of proper planning from the university. In the last few years, changes have been made to housing, but they aren't changes that support every single student. 

USC is trying to enhance housing options, creating over 2,600 beds in the last eight years in housing complexes at 650 Lincoln and Campus Village,” Taylor said.

By creating these housing spaces, the university has continued to exclude students of the general population.

As the university, they are making the active choice to let in more freshmen every year,” Place said. “While I understand why they are doing that — because they want to make more money — you can’t just do that and not address the issues that it's going to cause.”

Campus Village is only available to freshmen, and 650 Lincoln is available for Honors College students and student-athletes. Both of these buildings are new and have been finished within the last eight years. The university is continuing to expand housing projects, but not for the average upperclassman. This leaves upperclassmen scrambling for a spot in Park Place next year.   

"We try to accommodate as many upperclassmen as possible ... But, like most universities, we currently lack enough on-campus housing to meet the demand of every upperclassman who would prefer living on campus,” Taylor said.   

Of the record-breaking population of more than 36,300 students on campus in the fall of 2023, only 7,344 of those students are freshmen. Upperclassmen make up a vast majority of the student population at this institution.

USC must build more housing for its upperclassman students in order to rectify the on-campus housing shortage that those students experience.

These housing solutions need to be affordable and accessible to all students, regardless of status in the Honors College and Capstone program. The university should be treating housing accommodations as a necessity and not a commodity.