Housing competition leads to renovations, new options
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 23:10
With active construction sites for both on-campus and off-campus housing, both living options are being updated and expanded to include new amenities, new styles of housing and more room for tenants.
Currently, university housing is “101 percent occupied” and there was recently a wait-list with 26 transfer students on it, though they have now been assigned housing, says Linda Carey, director of Housing Assignment Services. Enrollment has increased at the university, meaning housing options are expected to be filled to capacity.
New East Campus housing currently under construction is intended to replace Rodney and Dickinson Residence Halls, says David Singleton, vice president of Facilities and Auxiliary Services. The construction, which is part of a long-term plan to expand facilities, is intended to improve options for housing rather than expand the number of available rooms.
The lowest percentage of students lived on campus during the 2011-2012 and 2010-2011 school years, with about 44 percent of undergraduate students living in residence halls, according to the Office of Institutional Research. This is a decline from the 2009-2010 year when 50 percent of students lived on campus.
According to university policy, all freshmen are required to live on campus for at least one year, with the exception of those who live within 30 miles of the university. They may choose to live at home and commute to campus.
Freshman Robert Phipps lives in Newark and commutes to campus each day. He says he decided to live at home for a number of reasons, including cost.
“It is cheaper and I just love being able to live at home,” Phipps says. “I might move on campus my senior year just to experience what it is like.”
For some students, the college experience is about living off campus with friends and having more freedom than in a residence hall. Senior Andrew Brooks moved off campus after his freshman year.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Brooks says. “We had this horrible [Resident Assistant] and he treated us like absolute children, not like 18-year-old adults.”
Besides the added freedom, some students have found that living off campus provides other advantages. Sophomore Robyn Crisp said that not having an RA was a huge advantage to off-campus housing, as well as having access to parking and other benefits.
“I like being able to go to the grocery store, and being able to cook my own food is great,” Crisp says.
Other students say living on campus is much easier and eliminates concerns such as having to pay for monthly rent, utilities and groceries. Yet, some students say living on campus allows them to stay connected socially.
“I decided to stay on campus because I wanted to be a part of the college community and the college environment,” junior Thomas Springer says. “Being so close to everything, I can go to events and club meeting and I feel that those living off campus miss out on those opportunities.”
Carey cited several advantages to living on campus, such as the Friends Together option, which allows groups of friends to live in the same building. Carey says they also have opportunities for transfer and international students to get familiar with the university that might not be provided by off-campus housing. Carey says she has noticed the trend that students are moving off campus earlier in their academic careers, with most students moving off campus after sophomore year.
Jeff Lang, the president of Lang Development Group, has been constructing apartments in the Newark area for over a decade. With 13 apartment buildings around campus, Lang Development Group provides several options for off-campus housing, such Christopher Court and Center Square, which are both on Main Street.
Lang says competition for tenants is about offering the best option for housing, rather than the most options for living. He says the development group constantly renovates and updates units to meet the needs of students and tenants.
“We just saw a need to provide well-located housing for university-related occupants,” Lang says. “As we saw the continuing need, we felt it was logical to continue to build them.”
When moving off campus, students say they look for features such as parking, washers and dryers, dishwashers and new carpeting and lighting.
Lang Development Group is able to keep up with trends by getting feedback from their residents and identifying what students look for in off-campus housing. In the past, off-campus apartments were usually two bedrooms, but recently Lang has noticed that students want features not available to them in the dormitories.
“Newer units actually force the competitive arena to improve the balance of the housing,” Lang says. “Kids just won’t live in junky old housing. We saw an adjustment in the needs of students. In the past we provided two bedroom units that housed two to four people. The recent trend over the last two to three years has been individual bedrooms.”
To keep up with off-campus housing, the university makes improvements and renovations of their own. Singleton says the university plans to modernize student housing.
“This included building several new clusters of residential facilities, modernizing several facilities and phasing out several existing facilities,” Singleton says. “We are entering the final phase of implementation, which includes the two new facilities under construction on East Campus.”
The new facilities are being built where Gilbert Residence Hall once stood and will be freshman housing. The buildings, which have yet to be named, will have conventional double rooms and communal bathrooms, and are “going to be similar to the rooms on Laird Campus,” Singleton says.