Rick Bradley, associate director of housing and residential education, cited the expansion of new apartment communities and a lack of desirable amenities in student housing for the loss in enrollment.
“It’s not uncommon for a 9,000-bed operation like us to have 200 or so vacancies. That became our standard: 98 percent occupancy. In fall 2014, that 300 became 500, so the concern rose,” Bradley said.
“When that 500 empty spaces last fall now looks like it’ll be 800 this fall, we are opening at about a little over 90 percent occupancy. Our awareness has now been heightened.”
In order to make money by housing visiting groups, the housing department reassigned the 135 students assigned to live in Stacy and Everett to other dorms.
“Now these two buildings will be used for a year-round conference operation. We will market it and communicate to folks that we’ve turned away in the past that we now have the space,” Bradley said.
Sophomore Allison Griffith, who was originally assigned to Everett, said she was confused by the move and worried about retaining her roommates.
“We finally ended up where we wanted in Everett, and then it was like they were just kicking us out,” said Griffith. “It all just seemed really unorganized.”
Bradley emphasized that the housing department does not receive state funding, which makes it harder to make the necessary adjustments in amenities that might mean retaining more students.
“We don’t have unlimited amounts of money to do upgrades,” Bradley said.
“Ram Village, which opened in 2006, cost $92 million to build. The same property with maybe higher finishing would cost about half that in the private sector. The state construction office requires us to build to a 100-year life span, which is expensive.”
He mentioned plans to make student housing more appealing by adding more single rooms and nicer amenities to existing dorms. The cost of upgrades to dorms will likely be passed to students through an increase in housing rates to offset the housing department’s expenses.
Although junior Cara Schumann lived on campus for her freshman and sophomore years, she will be living off campus for her junior year. She referenced the small room size and high cost as reasons for not staying in the dorms her junior year.
“It’s extremely expensive for the lack of space. Including utilities, I’m still saving at least $250 to $300 a month by living off campus,” Schumann said.