U eases dorm overcrowding by paying students to leave

About 500 freshmen were on the waitlist for rooms.

Anissa Stocks

As most University of Minnesota students are settling into their fall housing, a small group gave up spots last minute âÄî but made $650.

On Aug. 9, Housing and Residential Life emailed roughly 1,000 male students in residence halls throughout the University about a âÄúbuy outâÄù option âÄî some freshmen still needed spots. Thirteen upperclassmen took the UniversityâÄôs offer in exchange for $400, and an extra $250 from getting their deposits back.

Typically, residence life has a July 31 deadline to assign first-year rooms.

The scramble is the latest sign of the UniversityâÄôs shortage of on-campus housing. Though the University has the second-most students in the Big Ten, it has the third-fewest beds, said Mannix Clark, associate director of housing.

With roughly 6,650 beds, including those in common areas converted to housing, the campus trails No. 1 Michigan State University by more than 10,000.

But a deadline of less than a week to decide whether to take the offer left Derek Scherbel with little choice.

Scherbel, a biology sophomore living in Yudof Hall, said the offer was a tough sell, citing the small timeframe to find off-campus housing.

It would have been a hassle to try to find somewhere else to live âÄúlate in the game,âÄù he said.

Scherbel said the late emails to students were a result of âÄúpoor planning.âÄù

Sparse number of beds

The University has historically had too few beds available for freshmen who apply by the May 1 guaranteed housing deadline.

Many are placed in temporary extended housing and some, like Tom Grundmeyer, are put up in apartments typically assigned to older students.

Grundmeyer applied for housing in June after he received his acceptance letter and was placed on a waitlist. He was set to attend the UniversityâÄôs Duluth campus, where he put in a $250 deposit for guaranteed dorm-style housing.

âÄúI canâÄôt really imagine what a normal dorm is like now that IâÄôve been [at Yudof],âÄù he said. âÄúEveryone wants to live here. I got lucky.âÄù

Emmanuel Perry, a freshman rooming with three other first-years in Yudof Hall, said he doesnâÄôt feel disadvantaged living on a floor dominated by older students.

âÄúWe have a nice set up here. ThereâÄôs space for miles compared to [other halls],âÄù he said.

Typically about 350 freshmen are placed in temporary expanded housing in hall study lounges each year, and then moved as dorm space becomes available.

Some are moved within the first few weeks, Clark said. Others call the lounges home for months.

Housing shouldnâÄôt be an issue for most of the student population, he said. The UniversityâÄôs setting in a major metropolitan area âÄî the only such school in the Big Ten âÄîmeans there are lots of other options.

New apartment complexes like Sydney Hall in Dinkytown and Solhaus in Stadium Village have provided hundreds of beds for students to live off campus, but they come with a hefty price tag.

Rent at the buildings is competitive with the cityâÄôs marketplace, said Jim LaValle, vice president of development at Doran Construction, the company behind 412 Lofts and Sydney Hall. His company will break ground on a new Oak Street complex later this month.

He said newer buildings offer amenities and security similar to the UniversityâÄôs residence halls, but often cater to older students.

Higher GPAs, grad rates

On-campus living as a freshman allows students to become community members and part of a neighborhood, LaValle said.

Eighty-five percent of freshmen live on campus this year âÄî a number consistent with 2009-10 figures.

Clark stressed the importance of on-campus living for first-years, citing higher GPAs and graduation rates. LaValle agreed.

Freshmen who live on campus on average have a GPA of about 3.2 âÄî 29 percent higher than off-campus students, according to fall 2009 data.