UWRF is predicted to grow, so where are we putting people?
Last semester, UW-River Falls was severely overpopulated. The incoming freshmen class was one of the largest in the last decade, and the dorms were not sufficient to handle the overflow. Up to six students per room were being housed in study lounges while they waited for rooms to open up, and it wasn’t until near the end of the semester that everyone was out of extended housing.
Next semester, admissions has predicted the incoming freshman class to be as big as or exceed this year’s population. The university, however, has made no overt plans to build new dorms. Their main plan, so far, is to change Prucha Hall rooms from one-bedroom to two-bedroom residence, and the chancellor said that upperclassmen that qualify to live off-campus will be encouraged to leave the dorms.
The Student Voice does not see this as a sufficient or fair plan. One of the roots of this problem is the two-year residency rule. This is a UW System policy, and it requires that first and second-year students must live in the residence halls. There are exceptions for anyone over 21 years of age, veterans, married students or people with extenuating financial circumstances. Students can also opt out of living in the dorms if they have a permanent address within the approved commuting zip codes.
The reasoning the UW System gives for this policy is to encourage students to utilize their campus resources and services and to make connections among their peers. This is reasonable to a point, but we think that the policy is too strict and tends to cause more problems than it solves.
The two-year requirement should be a recommendation to the UW System universities, not a requirement. UW-Milwaukee has a one-year requirement and the rule doesn’t apply at UW-Madison at all. There are clearly exceptions, so we think it would be prudent to remove this blanket policy and allow universities to decide for themselves.
Each community in the UW-System is very different. At UW-Eau Claire, for example, the city’s housing isn’t as concentrated around the university, and it would be more efficient for students to live on campus. In River Falls, however, almost all off-campus housing is located within a few blocks of the university and is often cheaper than the dorms. Living off-campus also allows students to opt out of meal plans, which can be both expensive and unsatisfactory.
That being said, our recommendation for UWRF would be a one-year policy like UW-Milwaukee has. This gives students a chance to grow relationships on campus and transition from high school. However, this also allows sophomores to make their own decisions regarding housing and reduces some of the burden from the university to provide dorm space. This makes far more sense than suggesting upperclassmen leave a place they want to be in order to make room for sophomores who don’t want to be there in the first place.
It is great that our campus is growing. However, it’s irresponsible for the university to take on additional freshmen if it doesn’t have a plan for housing them. It is understandable that we may not have the funds to build new dorms, but this simple change to the two-year policy would alleviate overpopulation and open up room for growth.