Residential Life adjusts housing plans for 2016 as enrollment estimates drop

An estimated decrease of 941 applications is expected for the fall 2016 semester, coming entirely from non-residents.

Taylor Blatchford / Graphic Designer

Expectations of lower enrollment rates in fall 2016 have prompted the Department of Residential Life to make a number of housing changes, including closing Tiger Reserve and offering upperclassmen more on-campus housing.

For the upcoming fall semester, there has been a decrease of 941 applications from this time last year, with that decrease coming entirely from nonresidents, according to a memorandum released by the Office of the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management. There has also been a decrease in deposits, with the highest decrease seen from non-residents, mostly from Illinois, and 30 percent of the decrease in deposits coming from students of color.

Plans for “increased yield activities” are underway in efforts to increase both applications and deposits. For now, Residential Life is making adjustments to account for the decrease in enrollment, such as getting rid of extended-campus housing.

The department will be closing Tiger Reserve, a set of off-campus housing units, when its lease with The Reserve expires at the end of this academic year, Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said. The purpose of off-campus housing was to accommodate enrollment rates, which were growing faster than housing capacity.

“We’ve got a brand new residence hall, Brooks Hall, opening this coming fall,” Minor said. “In essence, we’re kind of replacing the capacity we needed that we had out at Tiger Reserve with what we have at Brooks Hall.”

George C. Brooks Hall is one of the many new residence halls scheduled to open within the next few years. The new hall will open in fall 2016, with another opening in 2017.

The two residence halls, which will replace the demolished Jones Hall, are going to open on schedule despite dropping enrollment, Minor said. Decisions about whether to delay construction will be made later, when enrollment estimates are more solidified. Residential Life is planning on demolishing Lathrop and Laws halls and building three new residence halls in their place.

“We’re still assuming that we’re going to move forward with the demolition and construction,” Minor said. “I think we’ll look over the next few months as to whether or not that should be delayed at all. Our plans right now are to continue with the design of that, but we’ve got a little bit more time to determine whether or not we’re actually going to do the demolition and new construction.”

The decreased enrollment for the upcoming freshman class will also allow for more on-campus housing for upperclassmen, transfer and international students. Residential Life has removed the cap on the number of returning students who can apply for on-campus housing. Currently, there is a cap of about 100 spaces for transfer students, but the cap could be removed if spaces remain available.

“We always want to make sure that we can accommodate the incoming freshman class, that’s our highest priority, and then as many of the currently enrolled students who are living with us and then the transfer students,” Minor said.

Near the end of 2015, Residential Life was considering modifying the ROAR process to allow for any returning students to apply for single rooms. Currently, acceptance for single room requests depends on the number of semesters a student has lived in the residence halls.

However, the Residence Halls Association voted to keep the process the same. Representatives likely felt that upperclassmen benefited from having a single room in ways that others might not, RHA President Billy Donley said.

“There tends to be a lot of students who, after their first year, get very involved and they see living in the residence halls as the best option for them,” Donley said. “I think that for students who it’s not their first year, they’re looking for different things than a lot of first-year students who will benefit from having a roommate.”

RHA has played a role in many decisions made recently by Residential Life, such as naming George C. Brooks Hall and getting the opportunity to name the second new hall, which will be voted on later in the semester. RHA’s relationship with Residential Life will only continue to grow, Donley said.

“We’ve always had a strong connection, but now RHA is being able to voice a lot more opinions on different matters,” Donely said. “They are a lot more willing to hear that student voice from RHA. That relationship has been great this year, and next year is going to be even better.”

Edited by Taylor Blatchford |

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