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Students feel growing pains


September 29, 2006

UW-River Falls welcomed its largest freshman class this year, recording the highest enrollment in the institution’s history. While increased numbers are healthy for the University’s finances and reputation, students aren’t seeing the benefits of growth.

There are now 6,105 people taking classes on campus, with roughly 40 percent living here. Considering the on-campus living requirement, Residence Life has felt the burden of growing pains.

Not only were Resident Assistants partnered with roommates, individuals with residence contracts were assigned to all of the University’s 160 temporary beds. Some of these displaced students will spend the entire semester awaiting permanent dwellings, seriously reducing the amount of available space for dorm residents outside of their own rooms.

Many of these makeshift housing units were created at the expense of study lounges and computer labs.

Labs in May and Stratton Halls were turned into permanent housing areas this summer, justified by University staff who now depend on future students to bring their own computers to campus. This theory seems plausible with today’s technology, but what about the delicate financial situations of students?

Wisconsin tuition is on the rise, leading students who may have otherwise had a few extra dollars in their pockets further indebted. In a time when national and state economies are suffering, is it really safe for the University to assume that individuals will continue to come to campus with bank-breaking possessions?

Students pay to live and obtain an education here, and valuable learning facilities have been stripped from their college experience. When the Davee Library closes at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and in the early evenings on weekends, where are campus dwellers expected to do their academic work? The overcrowding has essentially confined residential students to their 11-by-15 or 12-by-14 rooms.

While the spaces are small in dimension, they are further limited by the furniture and personal belongings of two inhabitants. Size issues aside, residents have to contend with lifestyle differences among roommates.

Still, the only new residence hall on the radar is the South Fork Suites addition, which will add a meager 240 beds by 2010. That’s barely enough space to take on this year’s temporary residents, without considering the continued enrollment growth that is both expected and desired by administration.

It is true that expansion can be extremely positive for institutions of higher education, but the welfare of current students should be taken into consideration before campus and System decision-makers get too far ahead of themselves.