DOR enforces strict deadline due to ISU’s high enrollment


Photo: Miranda Cantrell/Iowa State Daily

Dorm living is a popular option for both new and returning students.

Dalton Bergan

Any students contracting with the Department of Residence next year have until the end of March 1 to cancel housing contracts without being charged an 80 percent penalty.

Returning students planning to live on campus next semester should have already submitted their 2014-15 housing contracts. By submitting this contract, students reserve their preferred housing selection for the upcoming year and agree to pay for the full contract.

According to the email sent out to those who’ve reserved DOR housing for the 2014-15 school year, “anyone who wishes to remain an ISU student will be charged several thousands of dollars for any contract cancelled after this deadline.”

With the university constantly working on new ways to manage the increasing enrollment, charging students for vacating spaces may seem counterintuitive. Pete Englin, the director of the Department of Residence, said this is not the case.

Englin said that increasing enrollment numbers actually makes high penalty fees more necessary. The fee isn’t in place to charge students who cancel contracts, but is more to make sure that students filing for DOR housing are serious about the spaces they’re reserving.

“If there’s not a lot of risk involved, students will use the on-campus housing as a safety net while they look at other options,” Englin said.

Englin said the 80 percent penalty keeps students from contracting spaces they do not necessarily want. With so many students looking to live on campus, the university cannot afford to be denying students housing spaces only to find out that those spaces are available after contract cancellations.

“The cancellation penalties are actually in place for us to provide better service to students,” Englin said. “Students should be able to trust that the Department of Residence is providing them with the best options possible.”

If students cancel their contracts after assignments have already been finalized, it gets more difficult for the department of residence to fill those spots.

Students should also note that the 80 percent penalty is applied according to how much of their contract is left unused. While canceling before August 2014 will result in an 80 percent fee of the total year’s payment, canceling a contract halfway through the year will only charge 80 percent of what time the contract has left.

“[The contract is] partly there as a learning experience for students who haven’t made independent choices before,” Englin said. “In any off-campus apartment, you would be obligated to pay 100 percent after signing a contract.”

While an 80 percent penalty fee may seem harsh to students, the department of residence does their part to help students avoid this penalty.

Students who have to cancel due to unavoidable reasons may have the penalty mitigated or removed, depending on the circumstances.

The department of residence also does a lot to make sure that students are aware of the deadline.

“We put out a lot of materials like posters, bulletin boards, emails and stuff like that,” said Brittney Rutherford, program coordinator for the department of residence.

Englin said the university usually has less than 100 canceled contracts per year. With enrollment as high as it is, keeping these “ghost contracts” to a minimum makes it easier for the department of residence to provide students with the best available housing spaces.