Housing search a breeze with new website
Published on Thursday, December 28, 2017
By: Alana Bowman
In the FAQ for admissions staff at University of Mississippi Medical Center, “Where can I live?” and “How do I find a roommate?” are top of the list. Thanks to a new website hosted by Off Campus Partners and available to all UMMC students, faculty and staff, answering those questions is now much easier.
When talking with her counterparts at the schools on campus, Tara Rushing, admissions counselor at the School of Nursing, found that she was not the only person asked these questions on a regular basis.
“When the admission cycles come around and the letters of acceptance are mailed out, the calls start coming in,” Rushing said. “I’ve met with six this week, and each one asked about housing.”
She knew there must be a solution, so she set about searching.
Rushing looked at the services offered by state and private four-year institutions in the U.S., whether on-campus housing was offered or not. She found that the Off Campus Partners service was already being used by Ole Miss and Mississippi State to help students who do not want to live in an on-campus dormitory find housing. High-profile schools like Johns Hopkins and University of Texas use OCP.
Rushing contacted the service and explained the challenges. “We are a nontraditional campus,” Rushing said. “We have strictly medical programs on campus, no housing options.” She asked if the service would be a good fit for UMMC.
“They understood the nontraditional campus,” she said.
The site functions like a combination of real estate listing, social media and message board, and it is free to all UMMC affiliates: students, faculty and staff. The service is paid for by property and room listings. Property managers as well as private citizens pay a nominal fee to list available apartments and rooms for rent. UMMC affiliates will receive one free listing on the site.
Lesley Dickens, a UMMC medical school admissions counselor, said that housing is always a concern for incoming medical students. In the past, the school has set up a Facebook group for new students to connect with each other, find roommates and exchange information.
“[The site] will be helpful to our medical students who tend to want to live with other medical students with similar study habits and schedules,” Dickens said. “It’s one less stressor for them.”
To use the service, go to https://offcampushousing.umc.edu/ and create an account. The general public can access housing listings, message boards and resources. For safety reasons, only those with an olemiss.edu or umc.edu email address can access the “Roommates” tab.
The “Housing” section of the site functions much like ApartmentFinder.com and Zillow. Account holders can search listings by number of bedrooms/bathrooms and by price per bedroom. Listings purchased by property managers include contact and pricing information and photos of the properties.
The site went live on Dec. 20 with a soft launch. There are already fourteen properties listed, but Rushing expects many more properties to participate after the first of the year, when their new budget rolls around. She and the OCP sales representative for the UMMC area, Michael Buckley, visited with 30 different property managers within a 15-mile radius of campus.
“We had an overwhelmingly positive response,” Rushing said. “A lot of them have UMMC students and faculty already. They just didn't know how to reach more because we have a no soliciting policy on campus.”
The “Roommates” section of the site functions like a mix between social media and an online dating site. Those looking for a roommate create a private profile listing attributes they are looking for in a roommate: study habits, cleanliness, pets, responsibility level. Incoming students can receive a guest log-in to the private area by request if they have not yet received their UMMC email credentials. Rushing has access to grant 30-day guest passes to students listed on the acceptance rolls of each school. Account holders can feel safe knowing that their personal information is only being viewed by fellow students and employees of the Medical Center.
Included in the “Message Boards” section of the website are postings for items for sale, a faculty and staff message board and ride share connections. Account holders can post on the site items they wish to sell free of charge as well as arrange to carpool to campus with other students or employees.
The site, which is designed to match the umc.edu website in style for a seamless transition between sites, includes a “Resources” page where account holders can find campus resources like transportation and parking information as well as resources needed by those just moving into a new town: city websites and a chamber of commerce locator. The “Keys to Successful Off-Campus Living” resources will be helpful to someone living on their own for the first time. Download a roommate considerations or housing search checklist, or find advice for preparing a budget.
Whether one is a student recently accepted into one of the schools on campus, a new faculty member just moving into town, a long-time employee looking to rent the spare bedroom to a medical professional or a staff member with a couch to sell, Off Campus Housing is a resource UMMC family is sure to find helpful.