The number of students living on campus has hit a new low.
Residence Hall Association President Taylor Bates said residence halls are at 92 percent occupancy.
Because of this slump, RHA and the Department of Housing and Residential Education are rallying to ensure students’ needs are met on campus.
“On average, we expect to see students live here about two years, but it really varies person to person,” Bates said.
In a poll of 30 first-years done by The Daily Tar Heel, 10 percent said they were either planning to move off campus for their sophomore year or were undecided. Students cited saving money as the biggest incentive to live off campus.
“I’m joining a fraternity,” said Elvis Morales, who currently lives in Hinton James. “I think it’ll be cheaper that way.”dir
Of the 90 percent who said they plan to stay on campus, proximity to classes and friends was the greatest incentive.
“It’s more convenient to live on campus, and I want to be around my friends,” said Hinton James resident Abby Norris.
Rick Bradley, the associate director of housing and residential education, said it’s difficult to predict if the decrease in occupancy will continue into the fall semester. Applications for returning students to stay on campus are due Feb. 7.
Attracting more students
Bates said efforts at more inclusive residential living have began to broaden students’ options, including the opening of Pride Place next fall.
“We want students to feel free to choose whatever housing option is best for them,” he said.
He said next year, students can expect new ice dispensers and water bottle filling stations in every residence hall, personalized logos for residential buildings,composting options in every residence hall and the expansion of the Tar Heel Bikes program.
“What we’ve found is that our residence halls that are older and haven’t been recently renovated are where we’re experiencing the challenges, primarily,” Bradley said.
In the next few years, he said students will see changes in residence halls made by the housing department.
Next year, single rooms will increase by 20 percent, with new single rooms in Mangum, Manly, Ruffin, Grimes and Spencer.
Fewer beds will be available on campus with more single rooms and the closing of Odum Village this summer, Bradley said.
“There likely then would be a decrease of the number of students who live on campus as a result of fewer beds available,” he said.
Upgrades to restrooms are also in the works, he said. Bathrooms in Stacy, Everett and Lewis will be updated with hardwood floors and new fixtures by next fall.
Bradley said more common areas will be available within communities, but no concrete plans have been made to upgrade kitchens yet.
The total cost for renovations is projected to be within $15 million, Bradley said.
“With these initiatives, there’s no additional debt on students — it would be paid through their rent,” he said.
He said student rent generally increases two to three percent per year, based on the cost of utilities and the market rate.
Despite rising rents, Bates said he believes students should live in residence halls.
“When you live on campus, there is just so much more value than you get from any other housing option available to you as a student,” Bates said. “You’re plugged into a community of people who really care about you as more than just a tenant.”
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