High enrollment presents difficulties for Res. life

Molly Grace

The ultimate goal: to have the fewest number of freshmen triples possible. The problem: an attrition rate of 1-2 percent.

Normally, this issue would be towards the bottom of a school’s list of problems, since something on Villanova’s campus must be attracting its students back year after year.

However, it forces Residence Life, as Assistant Director Maria Schauder put it, to be “very creative” with upperclassmen housing.

Although most of the class of 2010 has yet to receive their acceptance letters, the idea of where to put those future students is already in the back – or rather, the forefront – of the Residence Life staff’s collective minds.

While housing assignments always present a complicated task, the projected size of the rising junior class – approximately 1,575 students – means that Residence Life is “going to be particularly challenged in getting everyone assigned to the best location possible this year.”

The rising juniors and rising seniors with guaranteed four-year housing (athletes, Presidential Scholars, nursing students and female engineering students) got a taste of Residence Life’s creativity when they received their housing assignments via Novasis in late January.

Some rising juniors were surprised – and disappointed – to find themselves back on Main Campus. After Residence Life filled all available spots on West Campus (in the eight apartments and in St. Mary’s Hall), they responded to the challenge by moving back to Main Campus. After filling Corr Hall to capacity, they started placing rising juniors in Austin Hall.

According to Residence Life, the apartment housing assignments are governed by two separate, completely random lotteries run by UNIT that work in tandem with each other: one for rising juniors and one for rising seniors with guaranteed housing.

The number of apartment units allotted for each class is determined by their percentage of the total number of students eligible to live in the apartments for the upcoming 2006-2007 academic year.

After doing the math, Residence Life determined that there were 270 apartment units – 1,080 apartment beds – available for the 1,575 rising juniors, and 35 apartment units–140 apartment beds–for the 200 rising seniors with guaranteed housing.

Since the majority of rising seniors with guaranteed four-year housing chose to forego their lottery numbers, most of those who decided to take advantage of the offer received an apartment assignment. Out of the 83 senior nursing students who were eligible, only 28 applied for housing, and all who requested apartments got them. On the other hand, of the vast majority of rising juniors entering the lottery with apartment hopes, almost a third were disappointed.

To deal with the situation of too many students and too few beds, the Residence Life staff has spent the last two weeks brainstorming incentive programs that they could offer students in the near future.

While those plans remain very general and underdeveloped at this point – since Residence Life still has to finish assessing who has committed to their housing assignments – more details will be announced as the programs become formalized.

Although they expect a 15-20 percent rate of refusal from those students who are not assigned a spot in an apartment, Residence Life is lenient about the Feb. 1 housing contract deadline in order to allow students enough time to decide if they want to forfeit their guaranteed spot and find off-campus housing instead.

Once the rising junior class is situated, Residence Life will turn its attention to the rising sophomore class. They hope to have information regarding housing assignments for the class of 2009 out in late March.

Besides the residence halls traditionally reserved for sophomores, including Sullivan, Sheehan, Alumni, St. Rita’s, Austin and Fedigan Halls on Main Campus and Good Counsel Hall on South Campus, Residence Life hopes to free up space in St. Mary’s on West Campus and Corr Hall on Main Campus to include them on the sophomore’s room preference form.

In terms of long term goals, Residence Life has commented that housing development plans are on the University’s priority list (along with such issues as new buildings for the law and nursing schools).

However, zoning struggles and township approval remain strong barriers that the University will have to overcome if it wants to build new residence buildings.

Although it has been suggested that Residence Life adopt a weighted lottery system which would take previous lottery results and/or other criteria such as activity levels and GPA into consideration, Residence Life has shied away from such procedures, deciding that a completely random lottery system offers the fairest scenario for all involved. The possibility of adjusting the four-year-housing incentive offered to various students has also been looked into – although not in great depth – but remains at the greater University level’s discretion.

For now, the Residence Life staff tries to take the housing problems in stride. Although the quota rate for incoming freshmen residents remains consistent with last year, they – like Residence Life staffs across the country – understand that acceptance rates and rates of attrition are difficult to predict from year to year.

So while they are happy that students are connecting with campus life and deciding to stay at Villanova, they hope their creative efforts with upper-class housing assignments will benefit the entire student community.