UA short 60 beds for freshmen
Students to stay in temporary housing; work starts soon on new dorm
FAYETTEVILLE — About 60 freshmen arriving for the fall semester at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will be without permanent room assignments at a time when construction is set to begin on new housing to boost the number of students living on campus.
A total of 5,830 students — 4,667 freshmen and 1,163 upperclassmen — have housing contracts, up about 2 percent from this time a year ago, university spokesman Christopher Spencer said in an email Friday.
Fall classes begin Aug. 21, with move-in taking place this weekend for many students.
The university has a total bed capacity 5,726, according to data published online for 17 residence halls and campus apartment housing. But Spencer said the listed capacity reflects only rooms built for housing students. Other rooms have flexible uses, Spencer said, and also may house students.
“We anticipate that approximately 60 students will be in a temporary assignment for a short amount of time on campus,” Spencer said in an email, with UA staff to help them move once the students receive a final housing assignment.
Last year, 11 days before the first day of classes, 174 students were expected to arrive at UA without a room assignment because of a lack of space, UA officials said. On the first day of class last fall, 17 were in temporary housing, as last-minute cancellations and changes typically clear up the housing picture, UA officials have said.
In November, UA System trustees approved a new residence hall project expected to cost about $77 million.
The 710-bed project, described in university documents as the Stadium Drive Residence Halls, will have site work begin in a few weeks, Mike Johnson, the university’s associate vice chancellor for facilities, said in an email.
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz told trustees in November that the university plans to convert two residences, Gladson-Ripley and Buchanan-Droke, into office space, so the project would end up adding about 500 beds to the university’s housing capacity.
However, no final decision has been made about closing any residence halls, according to Flo Johnson, UA’s assistant vice chancellor for university housing.
“University Housing will continue to evaluate and determine future usage based on student needs,” Johnson said in a statement released by the university.
The new housing is projected to open in fall 2019, Spencer said.
The university also has seen new housing for students in fraternities and sororities open in recent years. In fall of last year, 1,136 students lived in Greek housing, said Scott Flanagin, a university spokesman.
No new residence halls have opened since 2013, when UA added about 630 beds. Overall student enrollment has increased in recent years, and last year’s fall freshman enrollment of 4,967 was a record high and an increase of about 15 percent compared with 2013.
This fall, about 5,100 freshmen are expected to enroll, Suzanne McCray, the university’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions, said in an email.
Students with temporary assignments for now will likely live in converted study lounges or share a room with a resident assistant, Spencer said. A resident assistant is a student living in a dormitory who serves in a leadership role for residents.
“We have no plans of housing any students off campus,” Spencer said.
Steinmetz told trustees in November that students living on campus are more likely to stay in school. A February report from a university task force recommended the expansion of what are known at UA as living-learning communities, clusters of rooms within residence halls where students live who share majors or study within a specific discipline. Last fall, 256 students lived in such living-learning communities, sometimes referred to as LLCs, Spencer said.
“Students who participate in LLC communities tend to have a higher retention rate at the university and higher grade-point averages,” Spencer said.
This fall, annual housing rates increased in double occupancy rooms at UA residence halls. The lowest annual room-only rate at a co-ed dormitory is $5,548, up from $5,482 in fall of last year for Gladson-Ripley Hall.
Other residence halls saw larger increases. Pomfret Hall, for example, saw room-only rates increase to $5,770 from $5,553 a year earlier.
“While rates have increased this year over last year, the amount of increase is less than previous years,” Johnson said in a statement released by the university. “University Housing continues to practice strong fiscal management and solid operations in an effort to keep the cost of education down.”
Students with temporary assignments for now will likely live in converted study lounges or share a room with a resident assistant, university spokesman Christopher Spencer said.
Raquel Romero (left), a senior at the University of Arkansas, and Maria Arandia, a sophomore, pose with glasses and a frame Friday as they are photographed on the north terrace of the Union Courtyard on the campus in Fayetteville. The summer-themed photo booth was sponsored by University Programs and included light snacks.
Reagan Russell, of Coppell, Texas, an incoming freshman at the University of Arkansas, climbs Thursday onto the desk in her Maple Hill campus housing to arrange her bedding at the university in Fayetteville. Students, including those in the university band and participating in sorority recruitment, had the opportunity to move in early.