The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 15th

Colleges struggle to house new students

Moving away from home is always an adjustment for freshmen. But some students have to go one step further: moving into a study lounge or even an off-campus hotel.

Schools across the country have recently had problems with student enrollment growing faster than the school’s ability to house them. Many have resorted to housing students in hotels, temporary buildings — or even offering students money to move home.

Appalachian State University sent letters to some students during winter break to let them know that they would temporarily live in study lounges instead of dorm rooms.

“When we first sent the letters, we were bombarded with calls from people saying, ‘We can’t believe you’re doing this,’” said Stacy Sears, the associate director of university housing at ASU.

This semester, ASU has 12 students in study lounges, but the school hopes to move them into rooms within two weeks. Spaces open from no-shows or students who drop out or move home, Sears said. But 48 others stayed in study lounges all fall semester, and Sears said 11 wanted to stay there all year.

Some university housing officials blame the overflow on the economy, which has sent people back to college for a degree if they can’t find jobs.

The University of Montana has seen an increase in its enrollment for that reason, said Sandy Schoonover, director of residence life. She said they put 180 students, eight per room, in study lounges in the fall until rooms opened up.

N.C. Central University took a different approach in the past by choosing to house students in hotels last year. But logistics like transportation to campus made this arrangement too difficult.

NCCU and ASU are each opening a new residence hall this fall to help alleviate the problem.

UNC-CH last encountered overflow in fall 2004 when Cobb Residence Hall was being renovated. Almost 400 students were housed in Baity Hill apartments from August until before Thanksgiving.

New York University, which has had student overflow eight of the past 20 years, paid for students to live in a nearby hotel.

“Admissions is a science of sorts. It’s hard to predict,” said Tom Ellett, vice president of student affairs at NYU. “If we’re off by a couple of percentage points, that’s 100 students.”

Schools accept a certain number of students based on enrollment percentages in previous years. The turbulent economy of 2009 made those percentages unreliable.

Ithaca College’s prediction was off by 600 students in fall 2009, more than a quarter of the 2,000 freshmen enrolled that semester.

“We were thinking we weren’t even going to make the class we wanted to make,” said Linda Koenig, assistant director for housing and communications at Ithaca.

Desperate to reduce the overflow, Ithaca offered $2,000 to seniors who would move off campus and $10,000 off tuition for freshmen if they would defer their enrollment.

They paid students to move home, move to the Los Angeles or London campus, even to move out of corner rooms, which they turned from doubles into triples.

Finally, the school built a temporary residence hall to house about 100 people. It sits in a parking lot and is still used as a dorm.

“It didn’t really look like a trailer, but it didn’t look like any of the other buildings on campus,” said sophomore theater arts management major Alyssa Stoeckl. “I didn’t mind living there too much.”

But Koenig said others were less content with the arrangement.

“We were never talking to students about temporary lounges or even those triples,” she said. “We were all caught off guard.”

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