New housing plan to meet enrollment hike

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    Between the years 1989 and 2005, the university’s enrollment grew by about 28 percent.

    In contrast, the university’s housing only grew by 15 beds, a university official said.

    “What we were doing was driving students off campus, and losing some of the residential character,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Don Mills told parents at a meeting last week.

    University officials laid out the details of a campus housing plan at the Parent Council meeting Friday – a plan intended to meet the hike in enrollment and to increase the percentage of students living on campus.

    Craig Allen, director of Residential Services, said the university’s strategic goal would be to have two-thirds of undergraduate students living in campus housing within a few years. That would require between 4,850 to 4,900 beds.

    The range of beds needed fluctuates due to enrollment changes each year, Allen said. However, the number should remain in that range.

    After Colby Hall is renovated next fall, the university would only need about 800 more beds to reach its goal, Allen said.

    It is too early to know where the 800 beds would go, but Worth Hills would be a logical place to consider, Mills said.

    Residential Services planned to fund the additional beds by tapping a savings account that is set aside for renovation purposes, Allen said. One goal for the 2009-2010 school year was to keep cost increases on housing at a minimum, he said.

    “We were successful for keeping interest rates on housing at 3 percent,” Allen said. “And slightly under that for some housing.”

    Residential Services kept the spending to a minimum despite adding free laundry facilities in all residence halls this year, Allen said.

    The improved facilities led to more upperclassmen living on campus, creating a larger demand for housing, Allen said.

    “I talk to juniors and seniors all the time,” he said. “And in fact, our junior and senior wait list numbers are very strong and continue to grow.”

    Allen said that sophomores, juniors and seniors typically used to move off campus but that the quality of the experience as freshmen and sophomores influenced older students to stay on campus.

    University policy requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus.

    High demand for campus housing resulted in wait lists for the fall semester as well, and many students were put into triples or converted lounge spaces, Allen said.

    There were 3,540 beds on campus this semester, including the converted spaces, Allen said.

    “We hope to return those spaces to their intended use, which is lounge space,” he said.