On-campus housing applications are below capacity for the University of Connecticut's 2017-2018 academic year, according to UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz. Over 500 empty beds are predicted for the spring semester, Reitz said.
“Student applications for on-campus housing are at or below the available amount, with about 12,500 to 12,700 in residence halls at the start of each fall semester for the past several years,” Reitz said. “There is no wait list of students seeking on-campus housing who can’t get it.”
UConn was also unable to reach housing capacity for the 2016-2017 year, according to Reitz. The spring semester usually has more open spots than the fall semester due to dropouts, transfers, students studying abroad and other factors, Reitz said.
“The decrease is a result of our decision to reduce the size of incoming freshman classes, which is necessary because the state’s block grant to UConn isn’t enough for us to keep increasing enrollment as NextGen had forecast,” Reitz said.
In light of this, no new plans are being made expand on-campus housing, Reitz said.
“We don’t have plans to build more student housing in the near future, other than the transition of about 50 beds in the Nathan Hale from hotel to dorm use once another hotel opens in the region,” Reitz said. “The original Next Generation Connecticut plan envisioned the construction of an Honors Dorm, but that’s on hold now because we’ve had to level off enrollment as the state’s annual block grant to UConn has been decreasing.”
With only about 70 percent of students living on campus, the rest of the student population lives off-campus, with many citing the high cost of living on campus, as well as the required meal plan, as motivation for the move.
The cost of on-campus housing has remained the same despite the vacancies, according to the UConn Residential Life website.
The increasing population of students living in Mansfield and areas surrounding UConn has increased tensions with local residents.
Rebecca Shafer, a Mansfield resident and a member of the Mansfield Neighborhood Preservation Group, said the extra beds available are no indication of UConn being sustainable for its current student population.
“The 500 "vacant" beds is a non-sequitur, meant to give the appearance that the university is swimming in oodles of extra beds,” Shafer said. “It is presented like this to thwart our requests to enhance UConn's existing outdated housing and add nicer, affordable on-campus housing, not just affordable to the more well-off students.”
Shafer said that the vacancies are due to the increase in students moving off-campus, and UConn increasing enrollment over the past few decades. The town of Mansfield cannot support this growing student population, Shafer said.
“It's important to know that the issues between UConn and Mansfield are the same issues as those between other universities and their host towns,” Shafer said. “The difference here is that the Town of Mansfield is much smaller than most other host towns.”
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.