High enrollment creates overflow in residence halls

Ben Wolford

Once Dunbar’s second floor lounge, it now will accomidate housing for students in the fall due to the demolition of Small Group housing. Daniel Doherty | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

In Betsy Joseph’s four years as Kent State’s director of residence services, she’s never had to assign temporary housing in student lounges – until now.

With a freshman class that’s threatening to break enrollment records, compounded by the demolition of the Small Group residence halls in the fall, there just aren’t enough rooms.

“We have about 350 students who are on our wait list right now, waiting for an assignment,” Joseph said. “Our intention is to hold off as long as possible in making assignments because what we’re going to need to do is have some students who are going to be in transitional housing.”

Joseph expects up to 250 students who applied for housing late – in June and July – may have to live in temporary accommodations.

That means setting up rooms in the lounges in Eastway, Dunbar, Prentice, Verder, Lake and Olson. Joseph said the resident surplus has created the need to use Wright and Koonce, which haven’t been used for temporary housing before.

“We’re doing that this year,” Joseph said, “because the numbers are much higher at this point in time because we have not seen the amount of cancellations that we normally see once bills go out.”

As a result, Residence Services is releasing students from housing contracts if they want, though the department isn’t turning anyone away. Typically, once students engage in a contract they can’t get out of it.

Mark Ledoux, associate director of admissions, said the expected freshman enrollment this year will be around 3,850 students, which is about 80 more than 2007.

“It’s going to be our biggest freshman class,” he said. “A lot of it now is seeing who pays the bills and who decides not to come.”

Ledoux said his department is working with Residence Services to keep it updated on who’s coming and who’s not.

“We make sure all that communication is going on,” he said, “so that as students decide they’re not coming, we can open up that space in the residence halls.”

As far as the demolition of Small Group housing, Joseph said it makes finding beds more difficult now but will ultimately save money by avoiding the cost of renovating the buildings.

“Closing the Small Group halls and operating at the right capacity of bed space allows us to operate more efficiently and ultimately keep housing rates from rising more quickly,” she said.

In the meantime, though,

students will try to settle in to temporary rooms, and they probably won’t be there very long, Joseph said.

“We anticipate that most of those students will be assigned to permanent assignments within the first month of the semester,” she said.

But for the first few weeks, they’ll sleep four to a lounge with two sets of bunk beds, dressers and Internet connection. Any windows will be closed off, and students would have the same privacy as in any other room.

“My experience in over 30 years of being in housing,” Joseph said, “is that you always have a few people who really like those spaces. If you had four people in a lounge and they’re the last person there, they’ve got an office, a big space to themselves.”

President Lester Lefton said this “bursting at the seams” is a good thing.

“The truth is, at the best universities all over the country, this is a common problem,” he said. “Everybody wants to come and we don’t want to turn away quality students.”

Contact principal reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].