Housing shortage, renovations haunt large incoming classes

Many students will have to move second semester when Mark Twain closes.

Last week, freshmen moved into their residence halls for the first time. But, for a handful of students, it won’t be their last time moving this year, or even this semester.

Record undergraduate enrollment sent the Department of Residential Life scrambling to secure space for everyone, especially freshmen, whom MU requires to live on campus.

“I’m just happy we were able to accommodate them all,” Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said. “There was a point this year when we really thought that we may have to turn some freshmen away just because we didn’t have enough space.”

About 40 students moved into temporary living arrangements around campus, including renovated study rooms and student staff rooms.

“We really mean it’s temporary,” Minor said.

But exactly how temporary, “depends on how quickly we can identify those students who just didn’t show up or who changed their mind either about living on campus or about coming to MU early on," Minor said. "As it sits today, we anticipate we’ll probably have those out by the end of September at the latest.”

Every year, between 40 to 100 students make reservations to live on campus, only to change their minds once they arrive.

Residential Life has historically been able to house all students seeking accommodations, freshman or not, but space is growing scarce as the university steps up recruitment.

“Our strategy has been to increase our out-of-state recruiting efforts in order to compensate for the drop in the number of Missouri high school graduates — and that has helped our enrollment grow,” Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Ann Korschgen said.

Between 2009 and 2011, freshman enrollment alone jumped by 2,155 students.

Still, Residential Life expected this spurt and was on track to accommodate everyone who completed a housing contract by May 16 — the priority housing deadline.

“We had at one point almost 270 students who came in after that deadline,” Minor said. “We placed as many of those into regular housing spaces as we could, but eventually we ran out of those spaces. So any of the students who are going into temporary assignments completed their contract very, very late — probably even after July.”

But the shuffle won’t end once Residential Life finds permanent beds for all the students now living in transitory rooms. Residential Life will close Mark Twain Residence Hall for renovations after fall semester.

Shutting down Mark Twain residence hall will displace as many as 390 students, some of whom might have moved there from temporary housing.

“We’ll have plenty of room,” Minor said. “We’ve shut down residence halls for renovation like Hatch or Schurz that have excess of like, 550.”

Residential Life can struggle to fit everyone in housing one semester then next semester have enough extra space to close an entire residence hall because student population at MU drops between 8 and 9.5 percent between fall and spring semesters.

“It’s pretty normal. Students do study abroad, they do student teaching." Minor said, "Some students drop out, some decide to move off campus or onto a Greek chapter house.”

Residents of Mark Twain residence hall are taking the news in stride.

“It doesn’t faze me that much,” freshman Cody Adams said. “I’ll just have to get readjusted to it. I’ll be used to going to class from Mark Twain and all the little routes and stuff, but it really kind of blows that it’s happening very soon.”

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