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University facing lack of housing for fall term

By Ian Dillingham, Summer Editor in Chief
Published June 23, 2014

This story has been updated to reflect new information.

About 300 students returning to campus this fall could be asked to give up their residence hall room assignments in exchange for an off-campus option organized through the University’s housing office.

Housing officials announced the voluntary program Monday as an effort to accommodate a larger than anticipated incoming freshman class. A University press release stated there could be several hundred more new students on campus for Fall 2014 than the original estimate of 6,000.

Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, wrote in an e-mail statement Tuesday that it was too early to definitively say what caused the increases.

In the release, University Housing Director Linda Newman stated the University feels it is important freshmen are allowed the opportunity to live on campus in order to ease the transition to college.

“We hope our returning residence hall students will appreciate this unique opportunity to use their Housing contract to live in a nearby apartment,” Newman stated.

Newly admitted freshmen who meet application deadlines and follow the correct procedures are guaranteed on-campus housing, according to the housing website.

The program would give returning students who are currently signed up for University Housing the option to transfer their University agreement to one of the off-campus options, thus opening up space for incoming freshmen. The University would cover any difference in rent above the standard residence hall costs.

Students electing the off-campus option would also receive some of the same services provided to students in the residence halls, such as included utilities and meal plans for campus dining halls.

So far, three local apartment complexes — The Courtyards, The Varsity and University Towers — have signed agreements with the University to accommodate the overflow. University Housing Spokesman Peter Logan said the University is currently negotiating with at least one other apartment complex in the area.

The University has acquired a number of leases for these apartments already, and will continue to do so depending, in part, on the amount of interest they see among returning students.

Logan said housing officials received about 100 emails expressing interest in the program from returning students in the first few hours after it was announced.

Similarly to Newman, Logan said the University values the experience incoming students receive through residence halls and programs. Currently, about 97 to 98 percent of incoming freshmen live in residence halls their first year on campus.

“We know from our own experiences and from studies in this field in higher education that it’s the new student that benefits the most from the on-campus living experience,” Logan said. “Knowing that particularly the first year experience on campus is important for helping students make that transition and helping them be successful in their academic pursuits, as well as socially, we give incoming students — the new students — the priority, then as we can, with available space, we make (rooms) available to returning students who want to continue to live with us.”

In total, the University residence hall capacity for Fall 2014 is projected at 8,420, an increase from 8,360 in Fall 2013. While the opening of South Quad Residence Hall will add 1,170 extra beds, that increase will be offset through the closing of 1,110 beds in West Quad Residence Hall and Cambridge House due to construction.

Since Fall 2011, when total occupancy was 9,600, ongoing construction projects have taken about 1,200 rooms each year out of usage. The pattern of opening and closing dorms has kept the overall number fairly consistent since then, though considerably below maximum operating capacity.