Large freshman class leads to off-campus housing

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    Dormitory construction has made freshman housing scarce in recent years, but a larger-than-expected incoming class has forced administrators to find off-campus housing for this year’s freshmen, university officials said.

    During the summer, the university took out leases on six town houses on Cantey and Parmer streets, which will provide housing for about 20 freshmen beginning this semester, said Craig Allen, director of Residential Services. Another 20 freshmen have been placed in the GrandMarc apartments because of the shortage of on-campus space, Allen said.

    Last year, the closing of Jarvis Hall and ongoing renovation to Sherley Hall forced many freshmen to live in study lounges. David Cooper, associate director of Residence Life, said that this year every lounge available has been filled and 183 freshmen will live in triple-occupancy rooms originally built for two.

    The extreme lack of space required the search for off-campus freshman housing, Cooper said.

    “We’re jammed,” said Ray Brown, dean of admissions. “TCU’s never experienced (overcrowding) to this degree, as far as I can tell.”

    The reason this year’s freshman class is unexpectedly large is related to the economy, Brown said.

    Last year, college admissions officers across the country predicted that as Americans lost jobs and savings, the number of students entering college would drop nationally, Brown said. To counter this prediction, and to ensure that the size of the freshman class remained static, the office of admissions accepted a higher percentage of applications last year than in past years. Brown said his office offered admission to about 7,000 students, roughly 800 more than it did the previous year.

    However, the number of students who decided to enroll at the university this year did not drop. Brown said about 1,820 freshmen have sent in their enrollment deposits. According to the 2008 TCU Fact Book, 1,630 freshmen enrolled at the university last year. Brown said this freshman class is not necessarily too large, but simply overbooked.

    Cooper said Residential Services had to get creative to find space for the extra students. He said leasing off-campus housing was the only option left.

    However, Allen said he has a different perspective on the situation. Allen said he doesn’t consider the town houses, which are refered to collectively as Cantey Place, as being “off-campus” housing.

    “These are not students that are living off campus somewhere – these are students that are part of the on-campus community,” Allen said. “They have an RA, they’re part of our housing program, they’re getting all the same services we provide to on-campus students. They’re just living in a different location.”

    Unlike the Bellaire Condos and the Sandage Apartments, the university does not own Cantey Place. Instead, it holds a one-year lease on the property, Allen said. The freshmen living at Cantey Place will also be required to purchase a meal plan at Market Square, he said.

    Jeff Lancaster, the parent of a freshman living at Cantey Place, said he thinks the town houses are nice. However, he said he was disappointed that the university charged his family more for housing than originally promised. He also said he did not know his son would be living off campus until his family arrived for move-in day.

    Allen said the cost of living at Cantey Place varies from roughly $3,700 to $4,400 a semester, depending on the room. Families were notified about the student’s housing situation in August by phone or e-mail, he said.

    Rates for double occupancy rooms in dormitories on campus range from $2,675 in Colby to $3,700 for a super single in the Tom Brown-Pete Wright apartments.

    It’s not unusual for students living in lounges to move into an actual dorm room at some point in the year, although they will have to wait for a vacancy to open, Allen said. If Milton Daniel Hall were open this year, the freshmen living at Cantey Place, the GrandMarc and in study lounges would be housed there instead, he said.

    Allen said students were charged $1,800 a semester to live in a study lounge. Eight students live in one lounge in Waits, he said.

    Brown said spots can become available quickly at the beginning of the semester because some students who reserved a room do not return.

    “You’ve reserved a room in the residence hall, and we have to keep it for you until we finally decide, ‘This guy isn’t coming back,'” Brown said. “Then we can take a lounge lizard and give them that spot.”