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Students are headed back to colleges and universities this fall. Some of them will be arriving for the first time in over a year and are eager to get back in the thick of things.
That’s one of several factors that have led to an increased demand for housing at some residential institutions. A few have decided to deal with the issue in creative ways.
Dartmouth College, for example, is running a lottery for students who have requested housing. The lottery isn't for a room on campus, though. Students can instead enter their names in the lottery and, if they are one of the up to 200 chosen randomly, they will receive $5,000 for withdrawing their housing request. (Students who are not chosen will be able to keep their housing or wait-list spots.)
“Interest in living on campus has understandably surged following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions,” Mike Wooten, associate dean for residential life, wrote in a message to students on the housing wait list. “While we will be shifting some of our larger doubles to triples and converting lounges to student rooms where possible, we do not have modular, hotel or other options to increase the number of beds available for fall.”
The college added about 86 beds through converting lounges and double rooms into triples.
The University of Tampa offered students who defer enrollment this year the opportunity to receive $3,500 per year while they're earning their degree. The institution saw a surge of interest from incoming students to attend this coming fall.
“As a result of this surge of interest, student demand for on-campus housing has exceeded UT’s housing capacity, and a number of students were placed on a housing waiting list,” a university spokesperson said via email. “UT’s offer for students to defer enrollment for a year and receive [a] $3,500 grant per year while working toward their undergraduate degree on a full-time basis has helped dampen demand for on-campus housing, as has a $2,000 one-time grant that has been offered to students who were on the on-campus housing waiting list and decide to live off campus this upcoming year.”
Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, is also dealing with high demand for housing, in part due to changes in study abroad.
“This results from approximately 200 fewer students planning to study abroad because of the global pandemic as well as strong yield on offers of admission to the Class of 2025,” a spokesperson said via email. “We have contracted with a hotel proximate to campus and will operate that as a student residence for Fall 2021.”
Wesleyan will also be making use of temporary triple rooms.
The University of Southern California is experiencing similar issues.
“The increase is primarily due to a larger than average freshman class as well as having a sophomore class that missed their first year in the residential colleges,” the university said in a statement.
The university typically admits some students in the spring, but this year it will be seeking a smaller incoming class for that term, due to capacity constraints and several years of large incoming classes. Spring study abroad expectations, the university said, were not a factor.
However, not everyone has issues with housing. Officials at Agnes Scott College in Georgia said that the college is planning to enroll one of its largest incoming classes this year, but it has not yet needed to find more space. About 85 percent of students live on campus.
"Upon recognizing that the numbers might potentially exceed current on-campus housing capacity, we engaged in early discussions on how best to accommodate all students seeking to live on campus, including conversion of some larger rooms to triples or quads, outreach to local hotels, apartment complexes and other institutions that might have availability," Karen Goff, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in a statement. "To date, we have not needed to actualize those plans."
The college will be allowing more students who live near campus to have the option to live off campus.
"Housing will be tight, but so far, we have been able to assign everyone a room," Goff said.
Elon University, for example, said it is not experiencing any problems with housing nor converting any rooms or lounges. The college is running a full slate of fall study abroad programs, a spokesperson said, and enrollment is only slightly dissimilar from past years.
“Our study abroad enrollment numbers for our January term and spring semester are very high, so we don’t anticipate any housing impact this academic year,” a spokesperson said via email.
Rhodes College and Furman College, both of which typically see 60 percent or more of their students study abroad before graduating, said they, too, are not seeing any issues or increased demand.