8 university holiday break housing strategies

StarRez share key considerations for university holiday break housing, including requirements, applications, fees, staffing and more.

StarRez highlight key strategies student housing providers should take into account during university holiday breaks | StarRez | PBSA News

For many student housing professionals, it can seem like the fall semester has just begun, when suddenly it’s time to prepare for the winter holiday season. During this time, student housing staff face a unique challenge: providing accommodations for students during the break.

By StarRez

Deciding whether to allow students to remain on-campus, when to require a break housing or accommodation application, and how to manage the logistics can be complex. In this article, we’ll dive into the essential considerations and strategies for student housing professionals to effectively manage university holiday break housing or accommodations.

1. Should you allow students to remain on-campus over the break?

The decision to allow students to stay on-campus during holiday breaks depends on various factors, including institutional policies, resources, and the unique needs of your student population. Here are some considerations:

Pros:

  • Providing a safe and comfortable housing option can be essential for international students, those with academic commitments, or those who can’t travel home.
  • Offering over-the-break housing or accommodation can enhance your institution’s commitment to student welfare.
  • It can generate additional revenue during an otherwise vacant period. Similar to summer camps and events, you have an opportunity to drive revenue from an otherwise empty building.

Cons:

  • Managing university holiday break housing can be resource-intensive, including staff and maintenance costs.
  • Security and maintenance concerns increase during the break.
  • Limited demand may not justify the cost.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on the institution’s mission and resources. Offering limited housing or accommodation to specific groups, such as international students or those with academic reasons, strikes a balance between providing support and managing costs.

2. When should you require students to fill out a holiday break housing application?

To effectively manage housing over the break, it’s crucial to establish a clear application process with specific deadlines. Here’s a recommended timeline:

Early semester/term:

  • Inform students about your institution’s break housing options, requirements and application deadlines.
  • Promote the importance of planning ahead for those who may need accommodation during the break.

Mid semester/term:

  • Open the break housing application process.
  • Set a deadline for application submissions.

Late semester/term:

  • Review applications and confirm accommodations.
  • Communicate accommodation details to students.
  • Establish a waitlist if necessary.

3. What types of questions should you include in your over-the-break housing application?

A well-structured break housing application is essential to manage and prioritise accommodation effectively. Consider including the following questions:

Basic information:

  • Name, contact information and student ID.
  • Current residence hall and room number.
  • Emergency contact information.

Reason for staying:

  • Explain why they need housing or accommodation over the break (academic commitments, work, international student, etc.). Be sure to disclose if only certain circumstances will be approved.
  • Provide a brief description or proof of their circumstances.
  • The specific dates they plan to stay.

Special requirements:

  • Special accommodation requests.
  • Accessibility needs.
  • Any specific roommate requests.

Acknowledgment of rules:

  • Confirmation of understanding and agreement to follow holiday break housing/accommodation guidelines and policies.
  • Consent to emergency contact procedures.

University housing staff can efficiently setup and manage applications through a software provider like StarRez. Best-in-class providers will offer automated reminders for deadlines and application status updates. Staff can also securely store and analyse the information provided on the applications, including reasons for staying, dates of stay and special requirements.

4. If you only provide break housing or accommodation to students under specific circumstances, what should those reasons be?

Defining specific reasons for allowing students to stay on-campus during the break helps maintain order and ensures that accommodations are offered to those who genuinely need them. Common reasons include:

  • Academic commitments (e.g., research projects, internships or classes).
  • International students who can’t return home due to distance or visa constraints.
  • Student workers with on-campus jobs.
  • Students with extraordinary family or personal circumstances.
  • Athletic team members with training or competitions during the break.

By setting clear eligibility criteria, you can manage demand effectively and allocate accommodation where they are most needed.

5. Should you charge a fee for over-the-break housing or accommodation?

Charging a fee for housing or accommodation over the break is common and helps offset the operational costs incurred during this period. Consider the following when determining the fee structure:

  • Determine if university break housing will be higher than, lower than, or equal to the nightly rate for the academic year.
  • Determine if you will offer a nightly, weekly or flat rate for the break period.
  • Offer financial assistance or subsidies for students with demonstrated need.
  • Implement a tiered fee structure based on the length of stay and room type.

Charging a reasonable fee ensures that students who genuinely need housing over the break are willing to cover the cost, while the institution can manage and optimise its expenses.

6. How do you determine staffing to support those staying on campus during the break?

Maintaining a safe and functional environment during the break requires a reduced but essential staff presence. To determine staffing levels:

  1. Assess the number of students staying and the size of the residence halls.
  2. Prioritise essential roles, such as security, maintenance and residence life professionals. Always have an admin or residence life hall director (or both) on call during this period.
  3. Create a schedule that provides coverage throughout the break, balancing staff availability with cost considerations.
  4. Ensure that staff can address maintenance issues promptly, as issues may go unnoticed for an extended period during the break.

Regular communication with the staff on duty and a well-defined emergency response plan are crucial for managing over-the-break housing/accommodation efficiently.

7. Should you move students into select residence halls, or allow them to stay in their own rooms?

The decision to consolidate students into one or two residence halls or allow them to stay in their own rooms depends on the number of students staying and the capacity of your institution. Consider these factors:

Consolidation:

  • It simplifies logistics, staffing and security, concentrating resources.
  • Encourages social interaction among students staying during the break.
  • Allows for more efficient use of facilities.

Individual rooms:

  • Offers students a sense of continuity and familiarity.
  • May be more appropriate for students with specific requirements or preferences.
  • Requires a more distributed staff presence.

There are key considerations for either approach. For instance, do you have the space in a single location or multiple buildings to accommodate your break housing requests? Which approach will be the most suitable considering the length of the break? It might not be worth the hassle to move students around for just a few days. However, a multi-week break may be worth the extra effort to consolidate resources.

A balanced approach can work well, with the option for students to stay in their current rooms when feasible and consolidate in specific halls when necessary. The choice should align with your institutional goals and resources.

8. How can StarRez help you manage housing and accommodation over the break to support student wellbeing?

StarRez is a valuable tool for student housing/accommodation professionals in managing break housing efficiently. To enhance student wellbeing, you can leverage the software to create a safe and comfortable environment for students who need housing during this time. StarRez is uniquely positioned to help maximise student satisfaction and staff efficiency during the break. Here’s how:

Application management:

  • Set up a user-friendly online application process through StarRez.
  • Utilise automated notifications to remind students of deadlines and application status updates.
  • Gather and store all necessary information, including reasons for staying, dates of stay and special requirements.

*StarRez users who are members of the StarRez Connect – Global Users Facebook group can find a conversation on how other campuses are managing winter housing plans.

Occupancy management:

  • Use StarRez to allocate and track accommodations, assigning rooms based on eligibility and availability.
  • Maintain an up-to-date waitlist to fill any vacancies that may arise.
  • Monitor occupancy levels in real-time to ensure efficient use of resources.

Billing and fee collection:

  • Integrate StarRez with your billing system to handle break housing fees.
  • Offer online payment options for students.
  • Allow residents to request financial assistance or a reduced rate.

Staff scheduling:

  • Create staff schedules based on occupancy and needs using StarRez.
  • Ensure that the right personnel are available during key periods of the break.
  • Use the software to communicate schedules and changes to staff members.

Communication:

  • Utilise StarRez to send regular updates and reminders to students staying over the break.
  • Maintain open lines of communication through the platform to address questions or concerns.

Managing housing and accommodation over the break for students is a complex task that requires careful planning and execution. By considering these eight factors, student housing professionals can create a simplified process that prioritises student needs, efficiently allocates resources, and ensures a safe and supportive environment during the break.  

Learn how StarRez can significantly enhance the effectiveness of these efforts, improving communication, organisation, and resource allocation for improved staff and student satisfaction.

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