First-time students face campus housing shortages
Published: Monday, August 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 01:08
This fall, some first-time West Virginia University students won’t have a home in any of the University’s on-campus residence halls.
The University announced housing was at full capacity and ceased accepting housing applications for the 2012-13 school year June 15. Some students have been placed on a waiting list, while others have been referred to off-campus housing.
According to the WVU housing website, all single first-year students are required to live in University housing. In addition, transfer students with fewer than 29 transferable credit hours are also required to live on campus. However, housing is only available on a first-come, first-served basis, and space often fills rapidly.
"We’re not turning away huge numbers of students," said Corey Farris, Director of Housing and Interim Dean of Students. "This is just a handful of students who were really late in the housing process."
Incoming freshman Austin Johnson applied for housing late because of a last minute shoulder injury that caused him to lose his football scholarship at another university.
Johnson, who opted to commute from his home, said he understands the high demand for housing, and even though first-time students are encouraged to live on campus, he said he isn’t worried about his experience at WVU.
"Honestly, it happens. WVU is very popular; they have popular athletics that are soaring even higher – a lot of people want to go to WVU now. I’m still going to a great school, and going to have a great experience. It’s really not that big of a deal to me," he said.
According to officials, reaching maximum capacity isn’t uncommon.
"On-campus housing is at full capacity; however, this is an issue that typically happens this time of year," said WVU Residence Hall Association President Walter Hardy.
While limited housing is not a new problem for the University, Hardy said there are currently no plans to expand the on-campus housing opportunities for students.
"The new Evansdale Master Plan does not call for expansion of the current residence halls. There are plans to add academic precincts and recreational precincts, but in their plans for the next 5-10 years, residential precincts have not been evaluated," he said.
While the University recognizes the housing shortage, WVU housing is looking forward for a longer-term sustainable housing plan, Farris said.
"We can’t rush out and buy and build more housing all of a sudden, because then all of a sudden what if we don’t have the students to fill the housing?" he said. "We are constantly looking at what undergraduate and graduate enrollment is going to be. When the high demand for housing continues, that’s when we begin to look forward."
Farris said WVU could only house 3,600 students in on-campus residence halls in the 1990’s. When the high demand for housing continued, the University began looking for solutions.
The University purchased Summit and Fieldcrest halls and began building Lincoln and Honors halls in the years that followed.
"We are looking forward right now; we just have to do it in a smart way," he said. "Fifteen years ago, we could only house 3,500 to 3,600 students. In 15 years, we’ve had a significant growth from where we were."
Today WVU housing can accommodate approximately 5,600 students, he said.
While looking forward for sustainable housing options, Farris also said the University strives to for look financially sound options.
"WVU housing is completely self-supportive. We don’t receive any tuition dollars or government funding. We have to rely all on room and board charges and meal plans," he said. "We’re trying to be mindful of room and board charges for our students. We do not want to have to have higher charges."
While some first-time students have been turned away from on-campus housing, the University is doing everything it can to accommodate those students in their transition to life at WVU, he said.
Hardy said for the first month of the fall semester some students would be placed into overflow rooms in the lobby areas of Towers, which make up the Evansdale Residential Complex, until space becomes available.
The Office of Student Life has also assisted students by aiding them in their search for off-campus housing.
WVU also offers a commuter student program for those students living off campus. The program provides social activities, opportunities to meet other commuter students, academic progress counseling and referral information.
"The commuter program is a great way for the University to reach out to that handful of students that were not able to receive on-campus housing," Farris said.
However, Hardy said he believes the experience students gain in the residence halls is vital experience for every student at WVU.
"Being RHA president, I really do enjoy the residence halls and the experience students gain from living in them. I do feel that the University is providing a real disservice by not having more housing, especially for upperclassmen," Hardy said.
In an effort to provide all first-time students with the residence hall experience, Farris said residence hall programs and events are open to off-campus students.
"These students are more than welcome to participate fully in any residence hall program," he said. "Whether it be tutoring or any other public programming event, off-campus students are welcome to come into any sessions."
To learn more, visit http://housing.wvu.edu.