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As UCLA gears up for room sign-ups, some students face uphill climb for housing

Rieber Court is pictured. Students wishing to live on the hill or in university apartments for the 2024-25 academic year must register through the Room Sign Up process, which begins Tuesday. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Saya Mueller

Feb. 19, 2024 7:39 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 19 at 10:51 p.m.

When the clock strikes 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the first group of UCLA students will rush to their laptops and begin the race to pick their dorms for the next academic year.

Returning students applying to live in UCLA-owned housing must go through the Room Sign Up process to select their rooms and meal plans. Options range from traditional on-campus dormitories to UCLA-owned apartments off-campus, and costs are based on variables such as the number of students living in one room or one’s eligibility for an on-campus meal plan.

For some students, on-campus housing on the Hill is the better option because of access to the dining halls and proximity to campus. While UCLA Housing is currently piloting an off-campus meal plan for residents of University Apartments North, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement that it is still assessing whether it has the capacity to offer the plan again next year.

[Related: UCLA Dining to offer pilot meal plan for select off-campus students]

Ellie Tsao, a first-year biology student, said the main factor behind her decision to stay in the dormitories for another year was the guarantee of a meal plan.

“I don’t think I am ready for an apartment yet,” Tsao said. “I don’t think I’m good enough at cooking to be able to cook for myself every day and cook healthy, balanced meals. I really appreciate the meal plan.”

Tsao said being close to campus was also a deciding factor for living on the Hill, as she would be able to attend meetings and school-related events on campus more easily or participate in Hill activities.

Housing on the Hill includes classic rooms, deluxe rooms, plazas and suites, with one to three students per room, according to the UCLA Housing website. These rooms vary in bathroom configurations, as some have private bathrooms, while others have communal ones, UCLA Housing added in the statement.

Alejandra Flores, a first-year environmental science student, said she hopes to choose a deluxe triple in either Centennial or Olympic Hall, as these rooms have air conditioning and extra space.

Tsao, on the other hand, said she is planning on living in a plaza room.

“I really like where I live now, which is in Delta Terrace in Sunset Village,” she said. “It’s great location-wise because it’s in the middle of campus, so it’s not far from anything, and it’s really quiet, which I prefer, and the rooms are plazas, so I like the personal bathroom.”

Returning students also have the chance to decide their roommates for the next year during RSU by signing up as part of a roommate group. According to the statement from UCLA Housing, while room assignments for new students are selected based on lifestyle preferences, returning students can pick rooms themselves based on availability.

Flores said she is planning to stay with her current roommate, whom she has known since high school, for the next academic year. Though Tsao’s roommates were ones she was randomly placed with this year, she said they plan to stay together next year as well.

RSU times are determined by a variety of factors, including the size of the roommate group. Although UCLA began offering four years of guaranteed housing beginning in 2022 – making it the first UC to do so – some students with upperclassman status said they are less likely to receive priority housing during the RSU period.

[Related: UCLA announces new expanded undergraduate housing guarantee]

Jacqueline Nguyen, a second-year computer science student who currently lives in a deluxe triple room in Olympic Hall, said getting priority housing as a rising junior was difficult, leading her to decide to move into a non-university-owned apartment.

Chris Silva, a third-year biochemistry student who lives in an apartment in Pasadena, added that he felt being a rising senior made getting the housing he wanted next year more competitive.

Nguyen said living in an apartment is cheaper and allows her to apply for food stamps, which she could not access if she lived on campus with the required meal plan. She added that living in an apartment will allow her to have more control over whom and how many people she lives with.

Silva said it can also be difficult for some students to live on campus because of cultural differences, something that led to his decision to live off-campus.

“It’s a little harder, especially for minorities, to live on campus,” Silva said. “There’s a lot of barriers – whether it’s just a deprivation of culture or whether they feel like they’re being ‘othered’ – just because they don’t see a lot of themselves around.”

To Silva, living in off-campus housing provides the opportunity to live with others he feels close to and fosters a sense of belonging.

“If people do live in off-campus housing, it’s usually with people who look like them,” Silva said. “Once you find a group that you’re comfortable with and you’re comfortable living with, it provides some solidarity and a sense of security.”

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