University Housing experiences occupancy decline amid pandemic


Angel Saldivar

Allen Hall sits quietly at 1005 W. Gregory Drive in Urbana on Oct. 24. University housing occupancy rates have been declining due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Thomas DeMouy, Staff Writer

University Housing has experienced a significant decline in the occupancy rates of student dormitories on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanied by a more pronounced drop in the number of international students utilizing University Housing.
According to University Housing Senior Assistant Director Chelsea L. Hamilton, the occupancy rate for fall 2020 was 67%, compared to 93% in spring 2020. This rate does not account for the temporary loss of over 800 spaces this academic year due to the renovations on Wardall Hall in the ISR complex.
As more in-person classes became available this semester, the occupancy rate increased 4% compared to fall 2020. Occupancy rates have remained consistent across the wide variety of dorms that are offered, according to Hamilton.
“The demand for new residential buildings is commonly always higher than traditional buildings, but in order to de-densify our halls, and with the health and safety of our residents at the forefront of all of our operational decisions, occupancy levels were kept fairly consistent throughout our hall inventory,” Hamilton said.
Classes over the last two semesters have primarily been online, removing the obligation to be on campus for most students. Making the trek back to campus proved to be a challenging proposition for many out-of-state and international students.
The increased COVID-19 risk associated with air travel turned away some students, while many more did not have the option to return due to travel bans.
Ashna Gupta, sophomore in LAS, remained in her home state of California this year.
“Once all my classes got moved online, I didn’t really see the benefit of going back to school when I would be sitting in my room all day, especially since a lot of my friends did not go back either,” Gupta said.
Hamilton brought up many of the hardships international students faced this fall, including the difficulty associated with traveling across national borders during the pandemic.
“We did see a more significant drop in the number of international students contracted with University Housing as compared to domestic students,” Hamilton said.
Those who could not travel safely were given the option to cancel their housing contract without charge.
Students who did not complete their one-year on-campus housing requirement this academic year will be obligated to fulfill this requirement in the 2021-2022 academic year.

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