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UI spent more than $100K on roommate matching software

BY DORA GROTE | SEPTEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Nicole Rae,18, shook her head jealously after hearing the options students will have for roommate selection next year.

“If I would have been matched up with a person who has the same likes and dislikes as me, it would have made living with her easier,” the University of Iowa freshman said.

UI Residence Life will implement a new roommate-matching system this fall for students applying to live in residence halls in the 2012 school year.

The profiling system is a part of StarRez, the new housing information software officials recently purchased. The software costs more than $100,000.

With the new profiling system, students will have more control over roommate selection, said Ryan Cohenour, the Residence Life coordinator. He said students living in the residence halls next year will complete a additional questionnaires to the housing preferences students currently fill out.

“The benefit is that it takes me out of it and lets students choose,” Cohenour said.

When filling out the questionnaire, students will complete a series of categories based on students’ living preferences. These questions will be based on a one to five “liker” scale, one being the least and five being the greatest, Cohenour said.

Once these questions are answered, the student’s profile will be put into the UI computer system and compared with those of other students. The computer will rank students based on their compatibility, and students can then choose to send a “roommate request” to a compatible student.

“It is much like a friend request on Facebook.” Cohenour said. “The person receiving the request can either accept it or decline it.”

Lisa Ludovico, the assistant director of the residence department at Iowa State University, said that after her 20 years of research, she found a roommate-profiling system does not guarantee roommate satisfaction nor does it increase the level of roommate compatibility. Students may answer the same question the exact same way but it may not matter, she said.

“The questions asked are only subjective,” she said. “One person may think [an] early [sleep time] is 8:30 p.m. and another person may think early is 1 a.m. The only real roommate-breaker question is whether or not they want a smoking or nonsmoking room.”

Ludovico said parents also play a big factor for freshmen.

“A lot of parents fill out housing contracts for freshmen and fill out the questions based on what she wants for her son,” Ludovico said. “When in reality her son may be a slob who stays out till 2 a.m.”

However, Jean Wiesley, an assistant business manager in the department of residence at the University of Northern Iowa, said the new roommate-matching system, identical to the one being implemented at the UI, has had positive feedback from students since starting in September 2010.

“Our students do truly like and value their ability to create a profile,” Ludovico said.

Students have used the system to choose their roommate and have had success.

UI officials said they look forward to giving students more of an opportunity to choose their roommate this fall.


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