UW must increase house fellowships, housing aid amid campus overcrowding

UW students battle for positions in dorms to earn free housing, represent Madison housing crisis

· Feb 1, 2023 Tweet

Katie Hardie/The Badger Herald

The University of Wisconsin must increase the number of house fellows in their residence halls to provide students with more options for affordable housing and to support the steadily increasing number of students living in the dorms. 

House fellows, also referred to as resident assistants, help maintain a safe and friendly environment inside UW residence halls by organizing events and connecting students to various resources across campus. As a house fellow, students are provided with free housing in the residence halls and a free meal plan, which can save students up to $15,000 per year, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

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This past application season, the number of students applying for a house fellowship doubled. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the university is only able to accept 205 house fellows per year. This past application season, there were only 73 open spots available for new applicants — 639 students applied to fill these positions. 

With the affordable housing crisis affecting students across Madison, it is no shock that many students are fighting for the limited house fellow spots in order to receive free housing.

Applicants who were either rejected from or waitlisted for a house fellowship must scramble to find housing months after most students have signed leases. This gives these students very few options, nearly all of which are unaffordable. 

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The lack of affordable housing for students off campus is shocking, but this lack is equally represented on campus as well. This issue is exacerbated by the increase in house fellow applications. There is simply not enough available housing for the amount of students currently going to UW, particularly in the residence halls. 

It was only last year UW had to increase the number of students in most residence hall rooms to three and transition den areas into quadruples. This increase was a result of UW over admitting students in both 2021 and 2022, breaking records in both years for the largest freshman class in UW history. UW is certainly responsible for the overcrowding in dorms, and in part, the overcrowding on campus. 

This leads into the house fellow conundrum. With over 8,500 students living in the residence halls compared to a typical 8,000, according to the Capital Times, it is necessary for UW to hire at least a few extra house fellows to support those 500 extra students. 

House fellows perform important roles in residence halls, and when they become inundated with extra students it makes their job that much more difficult. Additionally, providing more house fellow roles would allow more students access to free housing, which the university rarely provides. 

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Though becoming a house fellow is certainly a solution for students to access free housing, the university should also provide more housing scholarships to students who need it. By discounting meal plans and residence hall costs for students who need aid, UW could help alleviate many of the housing problems on campus they have created by over admitting students.

The huge increase in house fellow applications is an indicator of the housing crisis — both on and off campus. The university must make efforts to provide affordable housing to students to offset the damage done by overcrowding campus.

Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in journalism. 

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This article was published Feb 1, 2023 at 11:02 pm and last updated Feb 1, 2023 at 11:02 pm

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