Going Hostel: Housing & Residence Life’s New Commuter Program
The idea for Housing & Residence Life’s Commuter Hostel came from a question posed by Ian last summer: “Is there something better we can do with the 9 bedrooms we have on the second floor of the ILLC?”
These rooms were irregularly used by visiting guests and as emergency space, but most often sat empty. Why not open them on a regular basis as a hostel space for Ryerson commuter students? Ryerson is a commuter-based school with a small residence population, and this was a way Housing could support the student population outside of residence, by providing an accessible space for commuter students to engage in campus activities, such as a athletics game or student life events, or provide a safe space for a student to stay to prepare for a mid-term or demanding project.
Some research provided a list of institutions currently holding similar programs, such as the University of Guelph and University of British Columbia, which provided us with some structure and best practices. All that remained was to open the doors and see if commuter students were interested in the program.
How It Works
Students can request a room online up-to 24 hours in advance for a stay between Sunday–Thursday evenings (7 days a week during exams), and will receive a confirmation from our office with all the details and instructions on how to check-in. The fee is $35 for one student—$45 for two students if they double up—and is charged directly to their student account; we designed the process to be as simple as possible for students, so we decided to apply room charges to their student accounts to avoid payment barriers with credit cards, etc. We currently have 9 rooms available for bookings, which students can book for a maximum of 3 nights in a row and 6 nights throughout a month; in theory, it could provide a student a place to stay the same night every week in a month.
How are we doing?
With 9 rooms available, we have received 965 on-line requests to stay since we first opened the Commuter Hostel on Sept 14, 2015; being able to accommodate and host 438 of students during that time (since opening, we have maintained a waiting list on average of 5–6 students per week; ~25/week during exams). A survey last month showed 82% of our students travel from a distance of 1.5 hours or more. So it’s clear the demand is there—students who were unable to stay with us because all nine rooms were full noted the various second option plans they had (like hotels). 60% indicated they utilized the commuter hostel to prep for a early midterm or exam, while 42% had an early class or were working late on campus for projects.
Ryerson University is primarily a commuter school, which means that as the Housing department, we interact for the most part with only 5% of our first year population. But this doesn’t mean Housing & Residence Life can’t provide opportunity and support for all of our students. The Commuter Hostel has been a fantastic opportunity to engage with our off-campus and commuting students, facilitating conversations about how we can support the larger campus and activating the recent re-launch of our off-campus housing supports.
In the upcoming academic year, we will be offering the hostel 7 days a week, but with only nine rooms and a constant waiting list, it’s clear there is a demand for more options. We are currently reaching out to hotel partners within the Ryerson area to see the potential for a commuter hostel program on their low-occupancy nights. This is just the start of the larger conversation of how we can and will support commuter students, in this capacity and others. Who knows what the future will bring but I am glad we have been able to provide a safe, innovative space for our students on campus.