At the beginning of each school year, first year students at Sam Houston State University flock to Huntsville, pillows and comforters in hand, and settle into one of the many dorms on campus.
But for some students, a coordinated over-assigning of rooms coupled with university policy forced more than 75 students into living in the University Hotel or tripling up in rooms designed for two residents. The overcrowding also placed students in sorority houses and resident advisors’ rooms.
According to Dana Grant, director for Residence Life business operations, the issue stemmed from a higher than expected acceptance rate. The problem is declining thanks to new sorority members moving onto sorority hill and also because Residence Life fills vacancies caused by no-show students. However, there’s no sure date as to when every misplaced student will be in permanent housing.
Tripled up students are also receiving discounts on their room rates, Grant said.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Grant said. “As they started booking rooms, more and more and more first year students were being admitted and were choosing to come to Sam. That’s what created our over assignments, that we had more first year students than we had originally expected.”
Residence Life allows new students and upperclassmen to begin registering for one of the 3,300 available beds in July until they’re full. Due to the university’s requirement that first year students live on-campus, even if incoming freshman had not signed up for housing before all of the beds were taken, they still must be placed in on-campus housing.
Out of the 3,300 beds available on campus, 62 percent is reserved for first year students, and the other 38 percent is reserved for upperclassmen. This rule meant that 327 upperclassmen weren’t able to register for housing this past year.
A new dorm complex is slated for SHSU’s south district, but it won’t be completed until 2016.
“Next year, we’ll definitely reserve more room for first year students,” Grant said. “Especially if Admissions expects to have a larger freshmen class.”
LIVING IN A HOTEL
Of the students who were displaced, 37 wound up staying in the University Hotel.
Amir Afhamy, freshman biology major, was one of those 37. While he only stayed in the hotel for four nights, he didn’t feel fully immersed into the college culture until he moved to his permanent housing in Sam Houston Village.
“I didn’t choose it,” Afhamy said. “I called Residence Life a couple days before [move in], and they said when I got here, the first thing to do is stop by the Residence Life office. I was expecting them to tell me my dorm name when I got there. ”
Afhamy applied for housing two weeks before move in, which was after housing registration was closed.
“Then the lady told me they were going to put me in the University Hotel for three days until they chose my place for me,” Afhamy said. “I didn’t really feel like a student, to be honest. I felt like a visitor.”
Students in the University Hotel were given top priority when it came to finding permanent housing, and according to Grant, they have already been placed in dorms.
“We still have over assignments right now,” Grant said. “We have 74 students who are over assignments in the resident halls. Some are booked with [resident advisors] in RA rooms, and some of them are tripling.”
Those tripled up are in Estill Hall, Belvin-Buchanan Hall and White Hall.
Overcrowding is a practice used by universities, including SHSU, to ensure the maximum number of students can be admitted while still following the university policy about first year students being on campus. Part of the complications, Grant said, are that between 50 and 100 students don’t show up each year despite paying a deposit and registering for a room.
“We track how many students don’t show up,” Grant said. “They don’t tell us they’re not coming and they don’t show up. Every year, we track how many students we expect in those categories, and it’s pretty consistent year-to-year-to-year. People who booked with us, made a deposit, made a room assignment and they don’t show up. We call them ‘no-shows’.”
Residence Life is also taking advantage of sorority recruitment which ended this past weekend. Those recruited were living in non-sorority dorms but will move into the houses. This frees up space for the students temporarily placed in houses on sorority hill to move into a permanent dorm somewhere else on campus.
Despite Residence Life conducting research and coordinating as much as they can, according to Grant, there is no projected date on which every student is in his or her proper housing.
“It just depends on vacancies at this point.”
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