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Housing situation gets breathing room

April 5, 2007

UW-River Falls campus housing seems to be a popular commodity for both new and returning students, to the point that demand severely outweighs the supply. Residence Life grappled with possible solutions all year that would appease students and ultimately solve the problem. Through many meetings, their goal is slowly being accomplished.

A new contract is responsible for alleviating the issue of overcrowding.

There are four phases in the new contract that are designed to provide housing for all students who plan on residing on campus next year.

Phase one took place March 26-27. During this phase, current students were able to reserve a space in their present room online.

Phase two took place March 29-30. In this phase current students had the option to reserve a different space in their present hall online.

Phase three, which took place April 2-5, allowed students the option to reserve any space in any residential hall online.

The final phase will begin April 16 and run last through May 1. A current UWRF student living off campus who has completed a housing contract and paid the $125 deposit may reserve any available residence hall space online. After May 1 off-campus students applying for University housing will receive assignment consideration in contract date order with all new and transfer students.

Setting up phases with a strict window will allow Residence Life to have a clear idea of how many current students plan on residing in residential halls next year. Then they can plan accordingly for new and transfer students, Director of Residential Life Terry Willson said.

“The phases make sense to me,” sophomore Abbey Gutbrod, who resides in Grimm Hall, said. “I guess they needed to do something.” 

Willson said students who have left on-campus housing to reside somewhere off campus have always had the option to come back. In fact, they received priority over new students seeking housing.

There seems to be a misunderstanding; some students were led to believe the policy changed from not allowing students who left to come back and live on campus to suddenly allowing them to do so, Willson said.

“The new contract gives students who want to come back and live on campus a smaller window to do so,” Willson said. “Whereas before, there was no window at all.”

That window is April 16 to May 1. After May 1 they will be placed on a waitlist with all new and transfer students.

“Many may be upset after May 1, but we have made this clear to students and they have a responsibility to secure housing arrangements,” Willson said.

Willson said what causes many students to return to on-campus housing is the option to move out when they finish their last semester, student teaching or whatever the case may be. Most landlords in the area require a 12-month lease with the exception of a few that allow six-month leases.

Senior Josh Mattson said it was weird living in Prucha Hall last semester. He said he had no choice because he didn’t want to get roped into another lease at his former residence in Hudson. He plans on leaving the state upon graduation.

“It seems to be a fall semester problem,” Willson said. “Right now there are vacancies for on-campus housing.”

One solution would be to accept fewer in the fall and more in the spring, but that is easier said than done, Willson said.

This was the first time in over 15 years the University was forced to make resident assistants (RAs) share their space with a roommate. The situation was stressed as temporary so RAs gradually adjusted to the change.

RAs having roommates is not uncommon. Both UW-Lacrosse and UW-Eau Claire have had such a system in place for quite some time, Willson said.

This year marked the highest population in the history of the University of students living in on-campus housing communities.; 2,444 students lived on campus.

There are currently more than 6,000 students enrolled at the UWRF. Residence Life strives to house 40 percent of the population. Out of all 13 UW System universities UWRF is the most residential campus due to the small size of the community.

The expansion of South Fork Suites, resulting in double its occupancy, will add 240 beds for students.

“We are excited,” Willson said. “ ... We think that this is a positive step in the right direction.”

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