July 23, 2018 | ° F

Hundreds in temporary housing due to shortage

Increased admission acceptance and more returning students - some requesting on campus living - caused a housing shortage of nearly 500 students that pushed the University into a corner with some tough decisions to make.

Roughly 340 students were placed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Franklin while 140 were given housing in residence hall lounges on the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses, said Joan Carbone, the executive director for Residence Life. Approximately 26 students were also placed at the University Inn and Conference Center on Douglass campus, she said.

Contributing to the shortage are 513 more undergraduates on the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses than last year, many more than Admissions had projected, said Courtney O. McAnuff, the vice president for Enrollment Management.

"It could be the popularity of the school, it could be the economy," McAnuff said. "I suspect it's a combination of both of those things."

On top of a record number of first-year students, 1,000 more returning students also requested housing than last year and there was a deep decline in students canceling their contracts, Carbone said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling said 900 students were on a housing waiting list at one time and although that number went down significantly, hundreds of students still needed housing before the semester began.

"The solution was to put all first-year students on the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses," Blimling said. "[Students were] put in floor lounges and also over at the University Inn. So all first-year students are on campus."

But he said the returning and transfer students who could not be accommodated on-campus were placed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel temporarily.

Carbone said contracting with the Hotel was the best alternative for the University at the time they recognized housing would not be secured for waitlisted students.

"The only other option was to tell those 340 students, 'We have nothing for you, we're sorry,'" Carbone said. "And we just didn't feel like we could do that at the late date we realized this. So in a way, I feel as though we are doing the very best we can with what we have."

Carbone said students living at the University Inn and Conference Center must have other housing assignments by the end of the month and is confident it will happen.

"We only have [students] in that unit for about three or four weeks," Carbone said.

Although students living in the hotels do not pay any additional tuition than they normally would for on-campus housing, the University is paying a fee per student living at the Hotel.

"My recollection is that we get about $23 a day for students living in residence halls," Blimling said. "It's costing us about $50 a day [per student] to have students in housing at the Crowne Plaza and we're making up the difference."

Blimling said the University is deficit spending out of the Residence Life budget, which does not affect the school's academic funds.

There is talk of the University adding housing within the next few years to offset future housing shortages, Blimling said.

"For some time, we've needed additional housing on campus," Blimling said. "We've been talking about how to best accommodate that. We are currently looking at adding apartments to Livingston campus and adding both traditional residence halls and apartments on Busch campus."

While trying to assist with any future housing shortages, the University is also addressing current problems students have with living at the Hotel.

The shuttle bus, which transports students to and from the hotel and the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus seven days a week, has been a problem for the University and the students, Blimling said.

"It's expensive, it's not efficient," he said. "Students are complaining and we need to figure out a solution. My recollection is [it's costing the University] about $68,000."

But despite the cost, Blimling said the University will bite the bullet and add another bus to the route to increase efficiency and in the meantime is working on ways to rectify the problem.

"[For] the students that do have automobiles, we have arranged for them to park on campus," Blimling said.

But, he said, students who choose to have a car on campus will have to pay the same fee for a parking pass as all other commuters. Most students choosing this option had to buy passes for the Livingston campus commuter lot, and must take the bus from there, he said.

Transfer student Andrew Kendell said the only downfall to living at the Hotel was the bus situation.

"The bus is pretty much the worst part of living here," said Kendell, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "In fact, we have one bus that loops every 40 minutes, and it's really packed in the morning when you have class and you have to leave pretty early in case you have to wait for another bus."

Although students are faced with some irritations, they are all provided with hotel amenities in each room, including a full size bed, bedding, a table and chair, a shared dresser, a coffee maker, night stand, clock radio, television, bathroom and closet, maid service once a week, a pool and a 24-hour fitness center, Carbone said.

"They have more amenities a student might have in a residence hall and they have more aggravations that a student might have in a residence hall," Carbone said.

As some students at the hotel agree the shuttle bus is a problem, others said there are other positive and negative aspects about the living situation.

"I actually really like it," said Morgan McMahon, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. McMahon said she received a housing assignment on Livingston campus and must leave the hotel by Tuesday. "I've already made amazing friends there and I'm sad to move out," she said.

"It was pretty much like living in the residence halls," McMahon said. "Obviously the beds were a lot nicer and having your own bathroom was nice."

Kendell said, although he does not mind the hotel, he tries to spend most of his time on the College Avenue campus with friends. He said the University residence assistants said they were told to tell Crowne Plaza residents not to make friends with other students living there.

"They told us ... it's a temporary situation and they don't want us to form a sense of community and all move away," Kendell said. "It seems kind of ridiculous to me."

Although Kendell previously made friends with students before becoming a University student himself, he said some have been having a hard time with living at the hotel.

"The main complaint that other kids have is that we're transfer students and we kind of got packed away all by ourselves so it's hard enough for transfer students to make friends and [the University] made it even worse," he said.

Even with students adjusting to the living situation, all have been more than cooperative, said Brett Kociol, the housing director of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

"Things have been surprisingly quiet and mellow for the most part," Kociol said. "Nothing major at all. I think the important thing has been David Williams, the Residence life coordinator, making clear that this was not going to be the place to party and also my staff and myself being very visible."

Kociol, who has a staff of 14 Resident Assistants living at the hotel, said students seem eager to get back on campus as soon as possible.

"I think the whole thing is such a new experience that no one knew what to expect," Kociol said. "But we have been really impressed with the way students have gone about their business here."

Caitlin Mahon

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