Dealing with growth

During their monthly meeting in Duluth last week, the Board of Regents heard complaints that the University of Minnesota-Duluth faced a difficult choice: either build a new residence hall to fulfill an increased demand for on-campus housing or place a cap on enrollment. Citing a decline in the number of high school graduates by 2008, members of the board seemed disinclined to approve the new housing request, which was favored by Duluth administrators. The regents fear that in another seven years, the building will be underutilized because of expected declining enrollments. They also fear, though, that if students are turned away, they will go out of state — likely to never return — or apply at the already overcrowded Twin Cities campus.
Thus the regents have a choice: overcrowding in Minneapolis or a slightly under-used building in Duluth. But as high growth rates in Minnesota mean higher enrollments in coming decades anyway, the board should use its keen foresight to plan ahead and build the sorely needed residence hall.
Just as incoming students on the Twin Cities’ campus are often given keys to local motel rooms until adequate space is found for them in the dormitories they requested, students in Duluth are still waiting for space to open up on campus and are stuck in area motels. Though a pleasant life, with daily room cleaning by the motel staff, it is only temporal lodging.
If the University wishes to hold itself to a policy of ensuring housing for all those who request it before an arbitrary deadline, then its administrators must provide students with the residence halls needed to fulfill that policy. An enrollment cap is not the most effective way to deal with a dormitory shortage. Assuming the school currently has all the other facilities and faculty sufficient to handle the expected freshmen enrollment, there is no reason the Board of Regents should withhold devoting a few dollars to giving students a place to live during their years at college.