For most of the country, it’s a great time to be a buyer in the housing market. But many college campuses struggle with having enough bed space for their student population.
It is an issue that UMHB now has to face. The prime real estate for the university, the apartments, will now be open to lower classmen. And this isn’t the only change residence life has come up with to accommodate the growing number of students.
Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Donna Plank heads up the housing process and believes the new system is one that will work well for the current state of the school.
She said, “We anticipate through housing projections that we might have a shortfall of bed space for everybody that approaches us and wants housing. We had to look at that and say OK, if these projections were to be true, and we had a shortfall, how are we going to handle that?”
The solution was to allow students with more than 48 hours to move off campus and to allow more underclassmen to occupy the apartments that were previously forbidden to those with less than 60 hours.
“The group of people that we have to make sure get on campus are the people we require to live on campus. That’s anybody with less than so many hours. It used to be 60; we changed it to 48.We’ve decided 48 hours represents four semesters on campus, potentially, and that’s a good standard to use for readiness to live off campus,” Plank said.
Even though the students with a lower number of hours are now allowed to live in apartments, that does not mean that upperclassmen with more hours will be forced to move off campus.
Plank said, “We’re going to be careful that the people in the under-48 stack aren’t just taking over everything that’s considered primary real estate. And we’re going to try to portion out things so that everyone has a shot at housing options.”
All housing applications will be processed online this year, another new element to help facilitate the mass amount of people trying to get information in. There will be two different days for the two groups to apply for their choice of housing.
The first day, the students with more than 48 hours will be allowed to apply starting at 5 a.m. Feb. 15, then at the same time Feb. 16. Those with fewer than 48 hours will get their chance to apply.
The applications will be automatically dated and time stamped, and then the two stacks will be sorted and assigned simultaneously.
“We’re going to try and be as evenhanded as we can. A lot of it is just being in sync with each other. … It’s not 100 percent guaranteed, but that will certainly do a lot to increase your odds that you’re going to get with your preferred roommate,” Plank said.
Even the kinks in the system have been worked out and thought through.
Those not able to participate in the process can have a proxy fill out their application. And if for some reason the form won’t go through on the day, students should send an email to Residence Life to use that time and date for their application.
Junior studio art major Maddie Phillip is a resident assistant in Independence Village and has heard responses from students during the mandatory housing meetings.
She said, “Most of my friends are going to be seniors, so they’re OK with moving off campus but are worried about losing scholarships over it. I’ve also heard people say they like that it’s online so they don’t have to go through all those lines.”
As an RA, she appreciates the new process being done on the computer because of the strain that signing up for housing used to mean for the residence life staff.
“I’m thankful it’s online so I don’t have to direct people through that hectic mess and have people frustrated with me and the situation when it’s out of our control,” Phillip said.
Vice President for Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee anticipates increased activity on campus even though more people will be allowed to live in other places.
“Students need to know that we are working extremely hard to try and accommodate everyone, but there are more people that want to live on campus than we’ve got beds for. We hope that it doesn’t affect student life,” he said. “The community life is always going to be a priority for us to increase and develop, and I don’t see us going backwards on that.”
Weathersbee is aware of the concerns students are feeling but knows that the university is working to make sure that the new policy works for the benefit of everyone.
He said, “We are not kicking seniors off campus. We love and value all of our students. And I think there’s some confusion from sophomores because in the past we’ve had the 60-hour rule that if you have less than 60 hours, you could not live in the apartments. We’ve adjusted that to where it’s 48 hours.”
Plank and Weathersbee said that patience is crucial during this time of transition in residence life. Though the process can be stressful, if students pay attention to the information and do their applications on time, they should be in a good position to get what they want.
The new policy has been well thought out and worked through and should be the best solution to the on campus housing shortage.
Weathersbee said, “If students will be patient with us and know that we’re working for their best interest and pay attention to what they need to do to take care of their business, I think they will see that we’re working extremely hard to try and accommodate everyone we can the best that we can.”