Each fall semester, the same group of students reemerges at colleges and universities nationwide — with a sigh and strange living conditions. The students are not trumpeted on university websites. They are not members of a formal club. And they often wish they could be anywhere else.
They are The Overbooked– Students whose residence halls are overwhelmed with more incoming freshmen and transfers than they can handle.
As a rash of recent student newspaper reports confirm, the causes of such overbooking appear to vary widely. The blame game includes administrators’ ambitious over-admitting; misread or poorly planned enrollment predictions; and a down economy ensuring residence hall construction projects stay on the back burner.
Yet, regardless of the ultimate reasons, the truth remains: At this moment, at schools large and small, public and private, rural and metropolitan, the overbooked make up a sizable slice of the total student population.
These undergraduates tend to face one of five scenarios:
1) They are put temporarily or permanently in hotels near their campus, coming and going via a nonstop shuttle service.
2) They are offered vouchers and other perks in hopes of precipitating a move off-campus. For example, as The Collegiate Times reported this summer, at Virginia Tech, “Students that choose to live off campus will be refunded their housing contract deposit and will receive $300 in dining dollars for on-campus dining facilities, along with guaranteed suite-style housing for the next school year. Housing and residence life will also assist students accepting the offer find off-campus housing.”
3) They are forced to live in triples and quadruples in rooms typically sporting only two.
4) They are placed in hastily arranged set-ups in dorm lounges, study rooms, and other converted campus facilities. Along with many other schools, this particular remedy is currently being applied at the University of Iowa, where more than 120 students began classes this semester without a room to call their own. Instead, as The Daily Iowan reports, “Students in this housing situation must wait until space opens up, which occurs when students who have dorm rooms either drop out, transfer, or move off campus. Until rooms in residence halls become available, students reside in student lounges, often with five to eight staying in a lounge at a time. Students are provided with their own bed, but they must share things such as dresser space, a space for hanging clothes, and desks.”
5) Some freshmen are separated from their peers, moved into residence halls typically only allotted to upperclassmen.
Are there overbooked students at your college or university? Depending, where do school officials put them? And how do the students feel about their housing situation?
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