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VP Says SHSU Not Anticipating Fall Housing Problems

The winding down of the spring semester becomes a busy time for the Residence Life Department as thoughts turn to fall housing for both students and Res Life staff members.

While rumors have spread across campus that the numbers of students displaced in the fall due to the closing of Belvin-Buchanan Hall for renovations and Smith-Kirkley Hall may reach upwards of 800, Vice President for Enrollment Management Heather Thielemann said this could not be further from the truth.

“I’m not exactly sure where that came from,” Thielemann said. “I can’t even figure that.”

The numbers, she said, look something like this: currently, SHSU has enough spaces for 3,485 students.

In the fall, the temporary closing of Belvin-Buchanan will account for the loss of 209 beds and the closing of Smith-Kirkley Hall will account for the loss of 500 beds; however, Raven Village’s opening will give the university 400 beds, and 200 beds in Smith Hall will be used in the event of an overflow of students wanting to live on campus.

“When you look at all those numbers, we are only down for fall ‘06 109 beds (400 + 200 – 209 – 500 = -109),” she said, adding that this will leave 3376 beds available in the fall.

What does this mean for the students who want to live on campus?

“We are not anticipating any housing problems for the fall based on the numbers of beds that we actually have versus some things that are having to come down for either maintenance or safety issues,” Thielemann said. “We’re definitely looking out for the best interest of the students to make sure things are maintained well.”

This assertation is based on several factors, Thielemann said, including enrollment, the numbers of students currently on campus and the data for the percentages of students who generally live on campus in the fall.

Currently, approximately 20-22 percent of the total student enrollment opts to live on campus, which is somewhat high compared to the national average of 15 to 20 percent, she said.

Based on projections put together by the Enrollment Management and Academic Affairs divisions, even with a 4 to 5 percent growth in enrollment in the fall, the university’s formal goal for the next few years, the number of beds needed for 18 to 20 percent of the student population without building a new residence facility is well within the number of beds SHSU currently has, she said.

“Our formal goal is 4 percent (enrollment growth) for the next three years, but we’re planning across campus for 8 to 10 (percent) growth because it’s better to have a plan for a larger increase than to only plan for 4 percent and have to scramble to find housing, faculty and classrooms/office space,” she said.

The reason Enrollment Management is basing the percentage of on-campus living as slightly lower than it currently stands is due to the fact that none of the residence halls on campus are currently at 100 percent capacity.

This spring, freshman facilities are approximately 98 percent full, while upperclassmen facilities are only 89 percent full. In the fall, the residence halls generally stay at between 96 to 98 percent full, Thielemann said.

“Part of the reason we went with 18 percent was because the upperclassmen aren’t filling their rooms,” she said. “(Another) part of the reason to drop to 18 percent was to see if we could move our capacity rate up into the 90s all the time.”

Off campus living is also a factor.

“We’ve had at least four, if not six to eight, private apartment companies call us about building apartments in Huntsville, and what they’re asking for is enrollment numbers and what our predicted growth is for the next several years, so we’ve taken the external factors of the community into consideration,” Thielemann said.

“You’ve got Sterling, it’s expanding; I think there are one or two more phases of that—there’s probably two or three other ones that are coming online in the next few years—those are probably going to be appropriately priced for students,” she said. “That attracts some our students from the number we house on campus, as well as the apartments that are already in Huntsville that accommodate students.”

In the event of all of the residence halls filling up in the fall, there are several things the university can do to alleviate the problem, including fixing up additional rooms in Smith Hall to accommodate more students and shifting small houses that may be all-male to all-female or vice versa, according to Thielemann.

“There are some factors that come into play that aren’t controlled by Residence Life, but with everything that we know now, including predicting our enrollment growth for the next few years, we think that we’re fine with the number of beds that we have,” she said.

Early numbers through spring renewals are already high, with a little over 1000 students already having renewed on campus spaces for the fall, according to Dana Grant, assistant director for Residence Life.

“We’re not turning anyone away at this point. If they want to live on campus, we want them to live on campus, and we’re willing to take their reservation,” she said. “I believe we’re probably going to start a waiting list for upperclassmen beginning around April 15.”

A waiting list, Grant said, is typical, especially in the late summer months when students who have waited until the last minute try to find housing on campus.

“We’ve had a waiting list for upperclassmen for housing every year for probably seven of the nine years I’ve been here,” she said.

Because of mandatory on-campus living for freshmen and the fact that only about 100 are granted permission to live off campus as true freshmen annually, spaces are held for them first, Thielemann said.

Approximately 1900 freshman have already reserved spots in residence halls for fall 2006, about 44 more students than last year at the same time.

The numbers for upperclassmen who live on campus generally waver through the actual move-in date, so while a waiting list may be in place through the beginning of the fall semester, those issues are generally worked out, Grant said.

“I have 25 years worth of data of how many upperclassmen put an application in or request for renewal and then cancelled,” she said. “There are usually a couple of hundred of people who end up canceling.”

Grant’s suggestion for upperclassmen to ensure on campus living next fall is not to procrastinate in signing up for a place.

“Make your plans now if you intend to live on campus next year,” she said. “We’re guaranteeing all reservations for fall right now.”




SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
March 28, 2006
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