Chris Vetter

A projected student housing shortage could land some University freshmen on the Twin Cities campus in area hotels this fall, administrators told the Board of Regents last week.
Since 1995, the University’s office of Housing and Residential Life has guaranteed that all incoming freshmen who request residence hall rooms would get one. Currently, about 70 percent of University freshmen live in residence halls on campus.
However, since the pledge went into effect there have been more students requesting rooms than there have been living spaces.
This fall isn’t shaping up to be any exception.
University officials are projecting another housing crush as they get ready to assign the school’s 4,623 residence hall spaces.
Although the total number of students without rooms has yet to be determined, Mary Ann Ryan, director of Housing and Residential Life, said some students will likely be temporarily housed elsewhere. But exactly where is unclear.
In 1995, several University students were placed in a campus-area Days Inn motel until residence hall space became available. A year later, the University redesigned some study lounges in residence halls to create additional living spaces.
Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, told regents that they should support a plan that would house students in hotels until residence hall space becomes available. He also said students usually don’t have to live in the hotels for long.
“There are a couple percent of students who say they are coming (to the University) and never show,” Marshak said.
Those students usually leave school in the first week, freeing up space for the students living in the hotels.
Marshak said an option to offering guaranteed living space is to provide a waiting list for room vacancies. But Marshak doesn’t endorse the waiting list approach.
“Parents don’t find them reassuring,” Marshak said. Students might choose to not come to the University at all if they aren’t guaranteed a place to live, he added.
The University received negative publicity in the last two years when students were moved into hotels, but most students prefer that approach to cramming more students into residence halls, Marshak said. The University must do a better job this time of explaining to the public the reasons for housing students temporarily in hotels, he added.
The University does have plans to increase housing capacity on campus in the near future. The South Mall project, which would begin next spring, would add 500 more bed spaces to campus. The project calls for tearing down the parking ramp behind Coffman Memorial Union, building a new residence hall and parking ramp, and renovating Coffman.
The project, estimated at $20 million, would increase the total housing units on campus by 12 percent. Marshak urged the regents that the “South Mall should be done as fast as economically feasible.”
Additional space will be added to campus this fall when the University’s theater department moves out of the second floor of Middlebrook Hall. After the space is renovated, an additional 64 bed spaces will become available.