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Largest incoming class in Rollins prompts RLE to explore housing options

Photo taken by Alexander Knobloch

The Rollins class of 2026 has a record breaking 649 students making it the largest incoming class in the college’s history. Due to this influx of students, providing housing for residential students has required strategic thinking on the part of the Office of Residential Life and Explorations (RLE). 

A series of emails were sent out by Juan Franco, Associate Director of Housing Operations for RLE, to all upperclassmen starting on June 21 that outlined one of the college’s strategies “to ensure that anyone in the incoming class that has requested housing is able to live on campus.” 

The emails asked students living in Lakeside, Cross, Holt, and Sutton Apartments for the Fall 2022 semester to consider submitting an on-campus housing exemption form. A limited number of these requests will be honored, allowing students to move off campus and free up space for incoming students. In return, students who received this exemption will no longer be bound by the 3-year live-on housing requirement that was reinstated at the start of last year

These requests from RLE came at the same time that some students were struggling to find housing after making late requests. Kayla Poholek, ‘25, had to submit their housing request in July after being cleared to return from medical leave for the Fall 2022 semester. 

“As a result [of the late request] all of the housing had been already filled up and the waitlist was just not a realistic option for me,” Poholek said.

She added that finding reasonable housing close to campus was “really difficult to do because of the housing shortage we’re facing nationally, but also especially in Winter Park.” 

Rising rents may pose a challenge for this strategy. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metro area, which has an average monthly rent of $1,608, ranked tenth of all metro areas in the country for the largest growth in rent costs from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2022. 

For a standard lease renewing on the 1st of the month, it would cost an off-campus student $8,040 on average for the Fall 2022 semester with no roommates for rent, plus an additional $1,244.80 on average for utilities. This is 44.96% more expensive than the most expensive room cost at Rollins ($6,405 for a Lakeside Single). 

If students are able to find at least one roommate, this offer has the potential to be cheaper than living on campus. The same costs for a single student with no roommates when halved average out to $4,642.40, which is 7% less than the comparable cost of a Sutton 2-bedroom apartment. 

When she shared about her experience searching for off-campus housing, Poholek commented that “It was extra hard because Rollins doesn’t really have anything set up to find other students who are also looking for off campus housing. They have the Facebook group, but there’s a lot of scams there and it’s kind of difficult to find a roommate that you know is going to be someone you can trust more because they’re a Rollins student.”  

As of writing, 23 students who had qualified for this exception took the offer. The current residency rate is now 98%, up 4% from last year’s record-breaking year for residential capacity. Along with these exceptions, RLE added an additional 35 beds to campus by converting double rooms into triple rooms in Elizabeth Hall, converting a lounge in Elizabeth Hall into a triple room, and converting the first floor of Sutton Apartments into five-person apartments. 

Franco said that RLE is no longer exploring further strategies to open up more housing assignments since the current residency rate means there are still some spaces available on campus.

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