U not sure of need for expanded housing next year

by Neil Munshi

Now that all students who lived in expanded housing at the Days Inn have moved out, University housing officials said they do not know yet whether next year’s first-year students could end up in a similar situation.

Officials should know whether the situation will repeat itself when most admission figures and housing requests are in by May, said Mannix Clark, associate department director of Housing and Residential Life.

Students had to live in residence hall lounges and the Days Inn on University Avenue Southeast because of an unexpected surge in admissions this year, Clark said.

“It’s based on what admissions told us, and nine out of 10 years it has worked, but if it happens (like this year) again,” housing might have to go through and figure out a way to cope with new trends in admissions, he said.

He said this year’s admissions irregularity should subside next year and bring the University back to usual projected figures.

Debi Grant-Smith, general manager of the Days Inn that housed 104 students this year, said University officials told her they will not need to place students in the hotel next year.

“They said ‘No’ (for next year), but they didn’t think they would have a need this year,” Grant-Smith said.

Clark said the University tries to house 6,500 students to 6,600 students annually. When they break that threshold, he said, the students’ living experience suffers.

First-year psychology students Tara Gorman and Rachel Hiscock live with two roommates in a converted study lounge in Frontier Hall.

“When I first came, I was really skeptical of the room; there wasn’t enough space Ö but once we all got into it, we loved it,” Gorman said. “It was an easy transition.”

Hiscock said that although their experience has ended satisfactorily, she does not think the University should accept students unless it knows it has space available.

Clark said housing estimates the demand for space based on numbers projected by the Office of Admissions.

University Admissions Director Wayne Sigler said his office determines how many students to admit based on the requests of University colleges. He said those enrollment numbers are then forwarded to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for approval.

Though the size of next year’s class is unknown, Sigler said they are projecting to admit 5,305 students. He said the 2004 projection was similar, but more students accepted enrollment than usual.

“We’re happy about that increase, but we want to make certain we keep our new student enrollment in line with the resources we have,” Sigler said.

Every year, Housing and Residential Life looks at the projected admissions numbers and takes into account what has happened in previous years, Clark said. It estimates that as many as 80 percent of admitted first-year students live on campus, he said.

Then, the department adds that number to the approximately 2,200 students to 2,300 students who usually return from the previous year. Ideally, that means the department meets its 6,500-to 6,600-person capacity.

The University does not plan to expand on-campus housing by constructing new facilities, Clark said.