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Enrollment increase forces students to live in hotel

September 17, 2009

Forty-eight first-year female students and one returning female resident assistant (RA) are calling the new Best Western hotel in River Falls their home away from home until the end of the semester.

As stated in the campus housing contract, “University of Wisconsin-River Falls freshman and sophomore students (students who have not earned 60 or more credits as of the first day of classes), under the age of 21, who are not veterans, married, single parents, or living with parent(s) or legal guardian(s) within the approved commuting distance, are required to live in university residence halls and participate in one of the standard meal plans.” With the number of admitted students at UWRF rising up to approximately 6,600 for the 2009-10 school year, housing constraints on campus have risen with them. The university has 10 residence halls on campus with a total capacity of approximately 2,500 students.

When asked for her personal opinion on being placed in the hotel, RA Amie Stillman said she felt privileged to be living in the hotel and is honored that she was asked to be the RA there.

“I have no complaints about living in the hotel, especially when the hotel staff is amazing and has been so accommodating to us,” Stillman said. Although she is the sole RA in the hotel and supervises the 48 freshman students there, Stillman works with the May Hall staff and all of the west side residence halls to cover duty in the hotel.

As new students at the University, there are many experiences to be had on campus. Katie Nylund of Lakeville, Minn., feels that she is missing out on these experiences and would rather be living on campus.

“I definitely feel more secluded than those in the dorms directly on campus,” she said. “It’s a little harder to meet the people on the floor since our main interaction is just seeing each other in the halls either walking to or coming from class.

Mellen, Wis., native Nicole Harding said she is enjoying her time at the Best Western.

“I feel I’m getting the same experiences as other students,” she said. “We have a resident assistant and about once a week we all do activities together like students living in a residence hall would,” she said.

The housing policy for freshman and sophomore students at UWRF is a requirement set by the Board of Regents, and Residence Life has no intention of seeking to change the policy due to annual housing constraints.

“Our current housing occupancy crunch is for female students,” Sandra Scott-Duex, director of Residence Life, said. “We still have spaces for males, and that is due, in part, to an increase in the number of female applicants overall to UW-River Falls.”

The cost of living in a double room on campus for the current academic year is $3,238 per student, while a single room and a room in South Fork Suites costs $4,238 per student. According to Scott-Duex, the students in the hotel are paying the same amount for housing as students living on campus, and Residence Life is absorbing an additional cost of approximately $18,000 with the University’s arrangements with the hotel.

Residence Life is anticipating that they will be able to move the students onto campus after the current semester, but Maple Grove, Minn., native Ruth Preus said she likes living at the Best Western.

“It’s really nice here and I wouldn’t mind living here both semesters,” she said.