University Housing on track to accommodate increasing numbers of students

By Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor

The University made headlines in 2021 for accepting its largest freshman class in University history, with 8,303 new students headed way. University enrollment broke 50,000 for the first time in fall 2019 and has stayed above ever since.

The University also made headlines this time last year, when stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic led to University Housing converting lounges into temporary dorms. The record number of incoming freshmen also coincided with a large number of students opting to return to campus housing following a year of remote instruction.

The number of students on campus, both new and returning, has been increasing year after year, raising concerns about whether or not University Housing has enough living space for every accepted student.

Every first-year undergraduate student, including first-year transfer students coming to the University with less than 30 credit hours, must live in University Housing to fulfill their residency requirement. In addition to University Housing, students can live in one of the University’s 13 Private Certified Housing options to fulfill the requirement.

According to Mari Anne Brocker Curry, director of housing information & marketing for University Housing, University Housing has a maximum capacity of roughly 9,400 spaces, plus an additional 2,900 spaces in Private Certified Housing. These roughly 12,300 spaces provide ample space for incoming freshmen, plus returning students who don’t wish to begin off-campus living yet.

Curry said that University Housing is currently well equipped to handle increasing numbers of students.

“(We have) no plans to expand/increase capacity in the immediate future,” Curry said. “We value the diversity and support provided through communities that have a mixture of new and continuing students. In general, our capacity is configured to have enough space for both new and returning students.”

The exact number of students in each incoming freshman class varies from year to year. This year’s incoming class saw a slight decrease from the record high in 2021, with 7,957 freshmen coming to campus for the Fall 2022 semester. Despite some single year-to-year decreases in admitted students, the freshman class has been increasing on the whole throughout recent history.

In 2014, 6,937 freshmen made up the incoming class — over a thousand students less than this year’s class. 20 years earlier, in 1994, only 5,690 students made their way to campus. At current rates, it would take until 2076 for the incoming freshman class to be too large to fit into University Housing.

Dan Mann, associate provost for Enrollment Management, noted that there is no hard-set upper limit for the number of students admitted into a given class. Instead, enrollment targets are set after thorough discussions with administrators across campus.

“Representatives from Undergraduate Admissions and the colleges meet each year to discuss enrollment targets for the next freshmen class,” Mann said. “Enrollment targets are normally determined based on current enrollment levels, available resources, market demand and plans for future program changes. After these conversations, recommended enrollment targets are prepared and sent to the provost to review and approve.”

One challenge any college admissions team faces is the yield rate. The yield rate is the number of students who accept their admission over the number of students offered admission. While an admissions team can control the number of students they accept, they cannot control how many of those students accept their offer of admission and end up enrolling.

While the University does not make their yield rate public, other colleges and universities have run into housing problems when their yield rate was higher than expected. A situation like this at Purdue made headlines in 2018 for dismal pictures of makeshift dorms. Taken to its extreme, a higher than expected yield rate can result in colleges rescinding offers of admission, such as UC Irvine did in 2017.

Some students suggest that University Housing is far from having a shortage of living spaces. Mike Liu, a graduate student studying aerospace engineering, said that even though he was late to apply to University Housing, he was able to secure a spot with no problem.

“I signed the housing contract pretty late and still got a single room, and they put me in another room on the same floor for summer housing because I arrived on campus too early,” Liu said. “So (it was) pretty smooth to me at least.”

Liu, who is also a first-year international student, said housing options were limited at his previous universities and he was surprised that there were still campus housing options available when he signed the contract in early July.

Having space to accommodate not just freshmen, but also returning students in University Housing remains a top priority for Curry and University Housing. According to Curry, utilizing University Housing for more than a year often correlates with academic success.

“Students who live in certified housing for two or more years are more likely to graduate and graduate in four years than a student who moves out after only one year,” Curry said.

 

[email protected]