Overcrowding at BU, Northeastern is causing housing conflict for students

Both universities received record-breaking application numbers in 2021, but schools are slow to provide comfortable and reasonable housing accommodations for the growing population.


Students settling into the Boston area for the fall 2021 semester at both Boston University and Northeastern University may have noticed particularly crowded campus spaces and heavily-populated dorm buildings following record-breaking application numbers from both schools. 

Northeastern received 75,233 applications for Fall 2021, a 17% jump from the 64,428 applications seen the previous year. Boston University received 75,733 applications, an almost 32% increase from the 57,433 students that applied to the Class of 2020. 

This overflow of applicants stands in contrast to the sparsely populated campuses of last year. Thousands of students either delayed their admission, took a gap year, opted out of on-campus living or took their classes remotely.

This year, both Northeastern and Boston University scramble to accommodate these numbers, putting more money into international programs and even renting out local hotels for students to live in for whole semesters. 

Housing is required for all first-year students at Boston University and for first- and second-year students at Northeastern, so underclassmen have no choice but to deal with this system. Housing costs can vary drastically and so can the perks and drawbacks of the various housing options. 

Most first-year students at Northeastern live in one of the classic, dormitory-style residences, including Hastings, Kerr, Light, Melvin, Smith, Speare, Stetsons East or West, or White Hall. 

“I’ve got my own desk space, but my room is a double and we have three people, so it’s slightly cramped but not terrible,” said Christ Geffrard, a first-year student living in White Hall at Northeastern this semester.  “There isn’t a whole lot of space between the top bunk and the ceiling.” 

During the pandemic, schools across the country scaled down their dormitory populations from quads to doubles or doubles to singles in order to give people more space and limit capacity. This year, extra beds were added to rooms to accommodate the large incoming first-year class. 

At Boston University, most first-year students live in West Campus or Warren Towers, which are large, dormitory-style residences. 

“The best thing is its location. It has the most campus-like feel to all of BU’s campus, it has a lot of greenery,” said Lindsey Kendall Beagan, a first-year at Boston University living in Rich Hall on West Campus. The three dorm buildings on West Campus—Sleeper, Rich and Claflin—form a courtyard looking over the Boston University Athletics field. 

Beagan explained that one disadvantage of the dormitories, which the university was transparent about, is the buildings’ lack of air conditioning. Beagan’s solution: “Fans, lots of fans, I don’t think we’ve turned them off since we got here.” 

Beagan was originally placed in the Howard Johnson Hotel, which Boston University purchased and is now ‘575 Commonwealth Ave.’ 

“I never went to it. I put in my request right when I found out I was put there to switch to West [Campus],” said Beagan, “I hear that it’s better because it has AC, but the location isn’t great because it’s farther away, and you meet less people because there’s way less freshman living there.”

Beagan plans to apply for one of the Student Villages next year, which offers suite-style apartments in the heart of campus.

Photo of the Stetson East dorm building on the Northeastern University, Boston campus. (Photo: Aiden Stein)

While most incoming Northeastern students get the traditional dormitory experience, a substantial group is admitted to Northeastern through the N.U.in program. N.U.in is a first-semester study abroad program that gives students international experiences while also bringing down admissions numbers and housing requirements for the university. N.U.in students are essentially deferred for a semester, but they acquire transferable credits. 

Last year, many of the study-abroad options were canceled due to international COVID-19 restrictions, excluding the N.U.in Ireland program at University College Dublin. The rest of the students, originally slated to go to London or Montreal were funneled into the new N.U.in Boston program. These students lived off-campus at the Westin Hotel and took classes with only N.U.in students, while also going on planned excursions around New England. 

“The best thing about my room in the Westin is that I have a much more physically comfortable living situation than a lot of other students on campus. I don’t have a hall bathroom. I just share an individual one with my roommate,” said Lauren Kaufmann, a N.U.in Boston student this semester. She enjoys a queen-sized bed and a thermostat but also faces a half-hour walk or 20-minute train ride to campus. NU.in provides a semester-long Charlie Card for students to use the train lines and get to campus fairly easily, but Kaufmann said she is excited to live right on campus next semester. 

“I love this school [and] I love the city, but the over admittance combined with the housing crisis is kind of anxiety-inducing because this isn’t just one year, but the next four years with this class size. It will be interesting to see how the school accommodates the class of 2025,” said Kaufmann. 

When students return from their first semester with N.U.in, they join the rest of their class on campus for the spring semester. This caused difficulties last year, as most of the typical first-year housing was at capacity. The NU.in students were placed at random into whichever buildings had space, which resulted in large disparities of cost and convenience of housing that were out of the students’ control. Some were put in International Village, the regular housing situation for returning N.U.in students, while others were put in upperclassmen housing like Davenport A and B, the West Village Apartments or the Midtown Hotel. 

Keelan Doherty, a second-year student who spent last year in the N.U.in Ireland program and then the Midtown Hotel, now lives in the West Village Apartments on campus. 

“Midtown was an interesting situation. After missing the first semester due to being an N.U.in student in Ireland, I went into a ‘dorm’ that didn’t feel at all like a dorm. The halls were always quiet. People weren’t social. It really felt like living in a hotel, not the dorm it was supposed to be,” said Doherty. 

He explained that while the Midtown was more reasonably priced than most of the other housing options, the Midtown felt dirty. While first-year students were still required to have a meal plan, the closest dining halls were a 15- to20-minute walk away and closed early. 

“Something good the school did was adding a study space at 300 Mass Ave. It’s an ideal location for Midtown residents that don’t want to make the journey to campus,” said Doherty. 

“If Northeastern is going to consistently use Midtown for additional housing, make it a more established residence hall, update the rooms, clean it up a little bit. Nothing major but some effort makes a difference,” offered Doherty. 

“The best thing about the dorm this year is the kitchen and common room. The space is perfect for hanging out with roommates or having friends over…Being social,” said Doherty.

He mentioned street noise and sirens are bothersome in a second-story street-side apartment. He also addressed the high cost for living on campus with a kitchen. 

“I plan to move off-campus starting in the summer after my first co-op. It’s a slightly cheaper option and seems to be the norm for Northeastern students,” said Doherty.  

Boston University’s long, linear campus along the Charles River can mean long commutes to campus locations as well. Eric Yang, a second-year at BU living in Danielsen, one of the large dorm-style residences, said that his commute to class could take up to a half-hour. “There are shuttles, but having more shuttles, or more options would be better,” said Yang. 

“I probably still want to live in a dormitory. I’m not familiar with living in an apartment, and I feel like it will be easier to make friends,” Yang said of his plans for next semester. 

The social aspect of living on-campus and being close to social areas seems to be important to underclassmen despite potential shortcomings of the dorm-style residences. 

As students become upperclassmen, however, most move to apartment-style housing offered by the schools or move to private, off-campus apartments. Isabella Garcia, a fourth-year at Boston University, just moved into an on-campus apartment in South Campus. 

“I’m in a single [room], so I don’t have to rely on anyone else. I don’t have to worry about someone else being in the bathroom or going to sleep earlier or later. It’s forcing me to be very self-reliant and independent,” said Garcia, “but the hard thing is that I’m still learning how to cook, so figuring out meals, and kind of being a grown-up, and not having anyone else to ask stupid questions to, that can get a bit tough.”

“I’m trying my best to make it as good as it can be. I’m trying to not think of the bad parts of it because it’s student housing. That’s inevitable,” said Garcia. 


Northeastern and Boston University Underclassmen Residences

Northeastern University

Name Style Rooms Cost/Semester Year Dist. to Campus Center
Hastings Hall Dorm ES, SS, SD $4,880, $5,670, $4,950 First 0.2 mi
Kerr Hall Dorm ED, SD, ST $4,535, $4,950, $4,630 First 0.4 mi
Light Hall Dorm SS, SD, ET, ST, EQ $5,670, $4,950, $3,965, $4,630, $3,670 First 0.2 mi
Melvin Hall Dorm SS, ED, ET, EQ $5,670, $4,535, $3,965, $4,630 First 0.4 mi
Smith Hall Dorm SS, ED, SD, ET, EQ $5,670, $4,535, $4,950, $3,965, $3,670 First 0.3 mi
Speare Hall Dorm SS, SD $5,670, $4,950 First 0.2 mi
Stetson East Dorm SS, SD $5,670, $4,950 First 0.3 mi
Stetson West Dorm SS, SD, EQ $5,670, $4,950, $3,670 First 0.3 mi
White Hall Dorm SS, ED, SD, ET, EQ $5,670, $4,535, $4,950, $3,965, $3,670 First 0.2 mi
153 Hemenway St. Suite ED, SD, ET, EQ $4,535, $4,950, $3,965, $3,670 First 0.3 mi
International Village Suite SpS, SpD, SpT $6,340, $5,420, $4,630 First 0.4 mi
Kennedy Hall Suite SS, ED, SD, ET $5,670, $4,535, $4,950, $3,965 First 0.4 mi
Midtown Hotel Suite SS, SD $5,670, $4,950 First 0.4 mi
110 St. Stephen St. Apartment ED, ES, SD, SSD $4,775, $5,960, $5,500, $5,070 First 0.2 mi
116 St. Stephen St. Apartment ED, ES, SD, SSD $4,775, $5,960, $5,500, $5,070 First, Second 0.2 mi
Levine Hall Apartment ED, ES, SD, SSD $4,775, $5,960, $5,500, $5,070 First 0.2 mi
10 Coventry Apartment SB, DB, SSS, SSD, 1B $6,510, $5,500, $7,915, $5,070, $8,380 Second+ 0.2 mi
106 St. Stephen St. Apartment DB, SSD, ES, ED $5,500, $5,070, $5,960, $4,775 Second+ 0.2 mi
319 Huntington Ave. Apartment ES, ED $5,960, $4,775 Second+ 0.2 mi
337 Huntington Ave. Apartment SD, SSD $5,500, $5,070 Second+ 0.1 mi
407 Huntington Ave. Apartment ES, ED, SSS $5,960, $4,775, $7,915 Second+ 0.2 mi
780 Columbus Ave. Apartment SS, SD $6,510, $5,500 Second+ 0.3 mi
144 Hemenway Apartment SS, SD $6,510, $5,500 Second+ 0.3 mi
Burstein Hall Apartment SD, ES, ED, SSD $5,500, $5,960, $4,775, $5,070 Second+ 0.3 mi
Davenport Commons A & B Apartment EPS, EPD $7,715, $6,730 Second+ 0.2 mi
East Village Suite, Apartment SpS, SpD, EPS $6,340, $5,420, $7,715 Second+ 0.01 mi
Loftman Hall Apartment SS, SD, SSD $6,510, $5,500, $5,070 Second+ 0.3 mi
Rubenstein Hall Apartment SD, ES, ED, SSD $5,500, $5,960, $4,775, $5,070 Second+ 0.4 mi
West Village A-H Apartment EPS, EPD $7,715, $6,730 Second+ 0.3 mi
Willis Hall Apartment SS, SD, 1B $6,510, $5,500, $8,380 Second+ 0.2 mi
Leased Properties* Apartment ESB, EDB, SS, SD, ES, ED, ET, SSS, SSD $7,715, $6,730, $6,510, $5,500, $5,960, $4,775, $4,115, $7,915, $5,070 Second+ N/A

Boston University

Sleeper Hall Dorm SS, SD, ST $7,145, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.9 mi
Rich Hall Dorm SS, SD, ST $7,145, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.9 mi
Claflin Hall Dorm SS, SD, ST, SQ $7,145, $5,495, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.8 mi
Warren Towers Dorm SS, SD, SQ(scaled down to triple) $7,145, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.2 mi
Myles Standish Hall Suite SS, SD $7,145, $6,220 First+ 0.7 mi
Kilachand Hall Suite 4S, 5S, PD(private bath double) $6,220, $6,220, $7,665 First+ 0.6 mi
The Towers Dorm SD $5,495 First+ 0.4 mi
1019 Commonwealth Ave Suite SD (3 doubles+suite) $6,220 First+ 0.8 mi
Danielsen Hall Dorm, Suite SS, SD, ST $7,145, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.9 mi
575 Commonwealth Ave Dorm SS, SD, ST $7,145, $5,495, $5,495 First+ 0.4 mi
East and Central Campus Brownstones Dorm (s) SS, SD, ST, SQ $7,145, $5,495, $5,495, $5,495 First+ N/A
South Campus Brownstones Dorm (s) SS, SD, ST, SQ $7,145, $5,495, $5,495, $5,495 First+ N/A
Bay State Road Brownstones Dorm (s) SS, SD, ST, SQ $7,145, $5,495, $5,495, $5,495 First+ N/A
East Campus Apts Apartment SS, SD $8,730, $7,255 First+ N/A
South Campus Apts Apartment SS, SD, 1B $8,730, $7,255, $9,690 First+ N/A
10 Buick St Apartment SV4, SV2 $9,345, $9,640 Second+ 0.6 mi
33 Harry Agganis Way Apartment, Suite SS, SD, SV4, SV2 $7,835, $6,835, $9,345, $9,640 Second+ 0.7 mi


For Room Style: 

ES: Economy Single, ED: Economy Double, ET: Economy Triple, EQ: Economy Quad 

SS: Standard Single, SD: Standard Double, ST: Standard Triple, SQ: Standard Quad

SpS: Semi-Private Enhanced Single, SpD: Double, SpT: Triple

SSS: Standard Studio Single, SSD: Standard Studio Double

EPS: Enhanced Price Single, EPD: Enhanced Price Double

1B: One Bedroom Apartment, 4S: Four Person Suite, 5S: Five Person Suite

SV2: Student Village 2-person, SV4 Student Village 4-person

Prices are listed in the same order as Room Style

For Distance to Campus Center, Curry Student Center and BU Central were used for NU and BU, respectively. For housing types with several buildings at various distances, recorded N/A

BU prices were originally listed as year-long, so prices were halved for comparison with NU. 

All Northeastern students living in on-campus housing that does not include a kitchen are required to be on at least a 7 meal plan (Unlimited: $4,245, 17: $3,955, 12: $3,470, 7: $2,330)

All Boston University students assigned to dorm-style residences must join at least the 14+ meal plan (Unlimited: $6,200, 14-Plus, Kosher, 330 or 250 Plans: $5,850 with varying dining dollars)

*Leased Properties owned by Northeastern can be found here

Additional Housing Information about Northeastern and BU housing can be found here. 

Costs for Northeastern and BU residences can be found here.