Fairfield University guarantees and requires four years of on-campus housing; Fairfield University’s 2021-2022 student handbook states that “Fairfield University is a residential campus with housing guaranteed to full-time matriculated undergraduates for four years.” Occasionally, however, students will be given the option to give up their fourth year of housing to go live off campus somewhere else, most commonly the area of Fairfield Beach.
Recently, students have been putting themselves under an immense amount of pressure to sign leases for beach houses, according to Speaker of the Fairfield University Student Association Senate John Stalzer. According to Stalzer, students are signing leases as soon as they possibly can in their first or second years of college.
This can create a less-than-desirable living situation for students who grow apart from the group they signed a lease with.
“I think a lot of people sign [leases] in their sophomore year, but that’s totally unnecessary and creates a bad situation,” Stalzer stated.
Sophomore Ashley McKenna, who signed her beach lease going into this academic year, echoed Stalzer’s statements.
“It’s crazy how early people sign leases and have to find a beach house,” McKenna said. “It honestly causes more problems and stress for everyone in deciding who you’re going to live with and if you’ll still be friends with them by then, but people panic once they hear others already got a house and get a group together as fast as they can and sign the first best thing they find.”
An additional problem that is caused by signing a contract for a house too early could be that Fairfield University does not release a student from campus just because they may have already committed to a lease. This not only causes problems for the landlord but also the group of students who have committed to a housing contract off-campus.
If a group of students would like to live down by the beach (or anywhere off campus for that matter), they first need to get released from the University.
This happens at the end of the fall semester of junior year. Stalzer stated that he thinks “around 600 [students]” are allowed to live off campus.
Fairfield University takes into consideration a few factors when determining how many students to release.
Mainly, they consider how many legal beds they can fill down at the beach area, which technically starts past the sign indicating you are in the Fairfield Beach area. They also take into consideration how many beds they can fill on campus. These numbers will help determine the number of how many seniors will be able to move off campus.
The beach is a highly popular place to live for students, as it is somewhat of a tradition to do so.
“If you’re a sophomore or if you’re in the spring semester of your freshman year, students are already starting to think about the beach because, in all honesty, that’s a large reason why some people might choose to come to Fairfield,” Stalzer said.
So, this begs the question: if it is such a tradition, why are students looking to sign a lease on a beach house earlier into their careers at Fairfield? Why not wait to confirm a spot?
The answer to Stalzer is simple. “You’re starting to look in your freshman year, or your sophomore year, and a landlord says, ‘well, you’d better sign soon, you’d better sign this week or I’ll just have somebody else sign it.’”
The pressure of landlords can be very much present when looking for such a residency for senior year. Aside from this, Stalzer acknowledges that students may start panicking earlier on if they think that there is a finite number of houses available on the market.
“The supply is going to go down,” Stalzer acknowledges, “and even you might not get, you know, a huge range of houses to choose from, but there’s always going to be houses.”
McKenna explained that the allure of living at the beach contributes to the excitement and stress surrounding finding a lease to sign.
“Living on the beach is one of the biggest draws about Fairfield, so I think that’s why people try to sign so early so they make sure they are set for their senior year,” McKenna said.
Some students have become flustered by this process.
“Finding a beach house was honestly pretty chaotic,” Carolyn McDermott ‘24 stated. “A few of my friends and I who were interested in living on the beach started the process this past October, which in comparison to most is pretty late.”
For students who either do not want to live off campus to begin with or who do not get released from campus, there still exists a wide variety of options for senior year housing.
The newly-completed Barnyard Manor south townhouses on campus are a great option, offering single rooms to all students who live in the unit. Another perk to these townhouses are laundry options inside each unit instead of a communal area.
Another senior-housing option is 47 Mahan Road, which offers apartments with four single rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a common living space.
Students interested in learning more about housing options, on campus or off can find more information on the Office of Residence Life website.