Columbia Residential and CUFO IT Partner to Enhance Housing Portal, Making it Easier to Find and Book Housing
To offer a more flexible, reliable, and efficient housing selection process for incoming students, faculty, staff, and postdocs, Columbia Residential partnered with Columbia Facilities and Operations IT (CUFO IT) to integrate the housing selection process into the resident Housing Portal and expand the timeline for waitlisted applicants.
The new housing selection system, which has been in place since the start of the 2020 academic year, is an upgrade from the prior manual housing selection process, allowing prospective residents to log in to the Housing Portal during their appointment, review an inventory of available units they are eligible for, including the address, apartment number, and building amenities at once, and choose their preference in real-time. Applicants can now also filter options based on their preferences on amenities including elevator access, laundry in-building, or utilities included, as well as select their move-in date, pay their housing reservation fee, and schedule a viewing appointment directly in the Housing Portal. During the first year of using the new system, the Residential team has seen an average of 75 percent acceptance rate in housing selection after an affiliate’s allotted selection appointment in comparison to the prior average of 25 percent.
Prior to the update, applicants were offered only one unit to accept or decline, assigned to them manually based on general preferences they provided. In addition to the process being manual and onerous for Columbia Residential, applicants declined or let their housing offers expire more frequently because prospective residents were not always happy with the unit chosen for them. The lack of transparency and flexibility in the process caused frustrations from both the student and operations perspectives.
“Understanding that the housing selection process, for the most part, has been a great source of frustration for many, we hope that the technological advances we have made in the system provide more flexibility and ease for those applying for housing with Columbia Residential,” said Lorant Kando, Director of Information Technology.
Additionally, to simplify the process for students on the waitlist, Residential has expanded the timeline for applicants to select housing, removing the six-hour time restriction and allowing applicants additional time to view and select from the available inventory. Waitlisted applicants may now log into housing selection at any time before September without having to submit new applications and wait for them to be processed.
“This new system really shows how two Facilities and Operations teams can come together to make something work for our faculty, staff, and students by creating a more user-friendly and efficient process where applicants can make informed decisions on their own and feel supported by us,” said Leilani Reynolds, Director of Leasing Operations.
Over the years, the Residential team has been focused on getting to know their residents and developing new ways to better serve their needs. Along with housing selection in the Housing Portal, the Residential team incorporated feedback from move-in and move-out surveys to launch additional initiatives to improve their customer service and better communicate with residents – partnering with CUFO IT to implement many of them –including a newsletter, automated email blasts, the integration of DocuSign for contract agreements and renewals, and an updated website with a live chat feature. The Residential team continues to explore additional opportunities for growth to offer residents more flexibility and security in making informed decisions around their housing.
For more information on Housing Selection, visit this page.