February 7, 2012

Influx of freshmen residents could increase housing demand

By Baylee Pulliam–

With a new rule for fall 2012 requiring freshmen to live on campus, some students are questioning where the university plans to house them all.

“I just don’t see how there’s going to be enough space,” said Tommy McGovern, a freshman mechanical engineering student who lives in Miller Hall.

McGovern speculated the new rule might force upper classmen “off campus and into apartments,” as the university is forced to give freshmen priority.

McGovern says he’s one of lucky ones, having signed up early to claim a place for himself in Louisville Hall next year. Others, he said, were not so lucky, scrambling for housing in the wake of increased demand.

Erin Kelly said when she applied to live on campus for next fall, she was put at the bottom of the waiting list. Next year, the freshman nursing major will trek from The Bellamy, which is “way less convenient” than on-campus housing, she said.

According to Resident Student Association President Rose Marshall, “most freshmen already live on campus or at home with their parents,” which would exempt them from the rule. Students will also be allowed to file an appeal if they are married, have children, are a veteran or are over 21 years old.

University housing, including Belknap and Health Science Campus residence halls and off-campus affiliates, was at 92 percent occupancy for their 5,100 approximate total beds in fall 2011. By fall’s preliminary numbers, over 2,400 of those beds were filled by freshmen.

Director of Housing Shannon Staten said the university should be able to accommodate the influx of freshmen residents, as well as returning students who want to live on campus. She said many non-freshmen will end up at one of the University of Louisville affiliates, like University of Louisville Properties or The Province, “because they want more private space than we can provide” in traditional residence halls.

The Bellamy and The Province, resort-style U of L housing affiliates on Belknap’s west side, are at 85 percent and 91 percent occupancy, respectively. The newest housing option, Cardinal Towne, has no vacancies.

With the large number of students looking for limited housing, one option may be campus expansion.

According to Vice President for Business Affairs Larry Owsley, housing developers regularly approach the university about potential projects.

Representatives from Innovative Student Housing conducted focus groups at U of L in January. Another company is considering developing an apartment and retail center on a lot between 4th Street and Winkler Avenue, Staten said. Each project could add more beds to campus.

In the second phase of its construction, Cardinal Towne also plans to add 166 new beds in fall 2012.

Owsley said all projects must mesh with the university’s “master plan” for campus. Many proposals are centered around 4th Street and Cardinal Boulevard.

“The real goal is building a community on campus,” he said.

Owsley said the historically commuter school, a “ghost town” on weekends and holidays, has already seen a significant shift toward a resident campus mentality.

Thirty-two percent of students chose to live on campus this fall, a 13 percent increase since 1999, he said. And “that number’s only going to keep going up.”

As the university considers expansion, Student Government Association Services Vice President Cara Monaco said student housing affordability might be “most important.”

Housing fees are relatively comparable between on-campus housing and university-affiliates, but students who live in The Province, The Bellamy and select other affiliates aren’t required to purchase a resident meal plan – a $1,460 per semester expense for residents without access to personal kitchens.

Owsley speculated any new housing developments would be similarly priced to standing ones, but the companies would set prices independently from the university.

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Photo: Michelle Eigenheer/The Louisville Cardinal

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