The future of the university’s on-campus housing system
BY Senior Reporter
Next academic year, the university will have less space to house students than it did this year.
With the Christiana Towers and Warner Hall closing, and the University Courtyards complex becoming university property after this year, there will be nearly 200 fewer beds.
Even with that shortage, Douglas Zander, the executive director of the Office of Admissions, said that the university will be increasing the size of the next incoming freshman class to just above 4,300 students, back to fall 2017 numbers, after a decrease in the fall of 2018.
Additionally, Zander predicted that the next few classes will maintain the upcoming numbers, and possibly increase in the next few years.
Those numbers beg the question: how will this year’s housing selection process work?
Normally, there are two time periods in which students can sign up for on-campus housing: the priority period in October and the period in February. All students that sign a housing contract in that time are guaranteed housing, but as indicated in the name, those in the primary period have always gotten to pick first.
However, this year, solely based on when a student signed up for housing (and completed the necessary steps), some students will be able to self-select their housing for next year, as all were able to do last year, and some will be assigned by Residence Life & Housing. Everyone who has signed up will learn how their housing will be determined in mid-March, according to Jim Tweedy, director of Residence Life & Housing.
For the last few years, a number of factors decided one’s selection date, such as a student’s credit count, which is not present in the process this year. As in past years, though, if multiple students have arranged themselves in housing groups, their selection times will be averaged to make the determination.
To clarify, the majority will still self-select, but even some of the students that signed up in what was the “priority” October period will not. Further, everyone who signs up in February should expect to not be able to self-select either.
If a student (or group) does not make the original cut-off for self-selection, they will be “put on hold,” and they will either be assigned a selection date if enough were to open up, but if not, they would be assigned as spaces open up.
Tweedy said that even now, the situation is very fluid.
“We are tracking daily the number of cancellations and we’re trying to be as forgiving as possible for dropping contracts,” Tweedy said.
This past week, Residence Life & Housing held an off-campus housing fair with popular leasing agents on campus to try to help accommodate the students that are looking for off-campus housing late in the process because of the late housing changes.
The fact that the closing of the Towers, a popular apartment-style choice for upper-division students, was announced after thousands of students, some of whom likely wanted to live in the buildings, signed up for housing has contributed to a later-than-usual rush on off-campus homes.
Even just a few months ago, according to Tweedy, the plan was for the Towers to stay open for another three years. But due to the age of the buildings, it would have cost the university too much in maintenance for that plan to be financially viable. Thus, the decision was made when cost estimates were made showing those figures.
Joining the Towers on the chopping block for after this year is the South Green’s Warner Hall. While contributing a smaller amount of lost beds, it adds to the grand total of lost beds in the face of an ever-expanding student population.
Additionally, while not closing after this year, the Brown and Sypherd buildings will be closing for a full academic year for renovations, according to Tweedy. Among those renovations would be a replacement of the existing air conditioning systems and the expansion of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant rooms. Also according to Tweedy, those buildings will not be closed next year, but possibly the summer and following year after.
On the flip side, there is an interest in building a residence hall near where Warner currently is on the South Green, according to Tweedy. He said that, as of now, the project would be called the “South College Residence Hall,” and that it is “mostly designed at this point.”
He said that the project is around three to five years from completion.
“It will take care of future enrollment projections, some of the overcrowding [and] would be able to reduce the number of triples we have,” Tweedy said of the future South College Residence Hall.
The number of triple rooms has been a source of concern for many students confused about this year’s process. Tweedy said that he recognizes that there will be too many triples next year, but that no upper division (non-freshmen) will have to live in triples in rooms designed for two occupants.
“We would consider [upper division triples] pretty unacceptable,” he said.
According to Tweedy, next year, all of Eliphalet Gilbert Hall, some of Louis Redding Hall, some of South Academy Residence Hall and most of the George Read, James Smith and Thomas McKean Halls will have triple rooms.
All of those buildings are relatively new and have air conditioning. Residence halls like the Harrington and Russell complexes, Smyth, Lane and Thompson, which are all older buildings with smaller rooms and no air conditioning, will not have three students in any rooms.
“We do recognize that this is a pretty stressful thing,” Tweedy said.
He said that his department will “try” to keep roommate groups together throughout the entire process, which could extend past the end of this academic year.
Tweedy said that if there was a hypothetical group of four students, they might be asked to break up into two groups of two, and then they would try to locate those two groups close to each other geographically.
“There are a lot of things that we can do to try to make this work for everybody,” Tweedy said.