Volume 29 - Number 12 - Thursday, March 13, 1997

More student housing promised

by Daniel McCabe

Starting next September, any new out-of-town student who wants the University to guarantee them a place to live will be accommodated. They might not be able to live in residence, but McGill will ensure that they have lodging close to the downtown campus.

The University obliges most new out-of-town students who wish to live in residence--last year, of the roughly 1,420 new students seeking a spot in one of McGill's residences, 1,221 were accepted. But schools such as Queen's and the University of Western Ontario--schools that seek the same sort of students McGill hopes to attract--offer all new out-of-province students the option of living in residence as a matter of policy.

"Students weigh all sorts of variables when they're deciding on which university to attend," says Mariela Johansen, McGill's registrar and director of admissions. "A student who wants to go to McGill no matter what might not worry all that much about where he'll live once he's accepted."

But most students have more than one school in mind and they base their choices on "a complex mix of factors--which universities offer the programs that are the closest to what they want? What's the average class size? How do the tuition fees compare?" Finding a place to live is just part of the equation, says Johansen, "but we want to have as many factors going in our favour as we can."

Apartment hunting isn't much of an ordeal for out-of-town students who live close to Montreal, says Johansen. "But if you live in Vancouver, it's not something you can easily do. The reassurance that you'll have a place to live once you get here is huge."

Several downtown apartment buildings owned by McGill and operated by the University's Real Estate Office are being transferred to McGill's residences. As some of the current tenants move out, the vacated apartments will be reserved for new students. "The normal turnover rate for tenants in these buildings is 25%," says Flo Tracy, director of residences. "We expect to have at least 150 spaces for students open up."

Tracy stresses that students who reside in these apartments won't experience the same sorts of living conditions as students in residence. "There won't be the same kind of supervision. These students won't be in residence. Instead, they'll have the University as a landlord."

Still, Tracy hopes that over time, some of the community spirit that exists in the residences will carry over to students living in these apartment buildings. "We might be able to do some things to encourage that. We might group students together with common interests--exchange students, for instance."

What if student demand outstrips the number of spaces the University is able to offer new students? "Then we'll have to hustle and find some more space," laughs Tracy. After all, a promise is a promise.

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