The Growth Agenda will continue to bring in an increasing number of students, and with it the need for more housing. However, Residence Life has been unable to keep up with the demand causing more students to move into off campus facilities.
Frank Bartlett, director University Housing, says it has been a careful balancing act in Residence Life. “It’s been very, very challenging for us to meet the needs of students,” Bartlett said.
Residence Life broke ground on Starin hall, a suit-style dorm building, in 2008 hoping to accommodate for the increasing student population. However, this has not stopped the need to push more and more students off campus.
University Housing has made a few adjustments in an effort to counter the housing shortage and overcrowding. The first step was to allow more sophomores to move off-campus.
At the majority of universities, it is required that students live on campus until they are in their junior year. Here at Whitewater, though, students have long been able to get out of the dorms as early as their sophomore year.
Chancellor Richard Telfer is in charge of making this change. In Wisconsin, it is usually mandated that students stay on campus until they are juniors. However, the chancellor of each University is given the authority to change this.
Due to the growing number of students being admitted to Whitewater, the chancellor has had no choice but to allow more sophomores to move off campus.
In order to get off-campus, the student must meet certain standards. A few years ago, that standard included not having any write-ups, and to have maintained at least a 3.2 GPA. Now, there is more leniency on the write-up rule, and the required GPA has been lowered.
Residence Life has also expanded their services into the off-campus world by renting out rooms in both the Fox Meadows and Cambridge apartment buildings. This includes two floors of rooms in Fox Meadows, and the entire Cambridge building.
The rooms Residence Life has acquired in the two apartment buildings are considered student housing, but there has been a larger issue with alcohol than what is found in the dorms.
John Witte, the assistant complex director for Fox Meadows and Cambridge, said in his two years working there alcohol has been the biggest problem. Witte said this is probably due to the apartment atmosphere.
Witte also said it is harder to catch the underage drinking if students are not being loud. “If underage students drank responsibly, it would be more difficult to catch them in Cambridge, than it would be in Benson,” Witte said.
The student housing in Cambridge and Fox Meadows is similar to the dorms in many ways. Although the apartment rooms are more expensive due to the kitchen and living rooms available in each unit, most students are sharing a room, there are RA’s on every floor and policies are more or less the same.
Even though Residence Life has attempted to make the apartment units just like living in the dorms, Witte said it is a much more independent living style for many of the students. “This atmosphere is completely different from a traditional resident hall, especially being in a building that residence life does not own,” Witte said.
Due to the independence, many students have chosen not to participate in some of the dorm living activities, such as taking part in the Leadership Involvement Team.
Now, as UW-Whitewater increases the student population every year, enrolment numbers hit record highs. Bartlett said there is a plan to build a new dorm near the Wells towers by the 2016 school year, but it has not yet been approved. Even with the new building, it does not seem like the University will be able to keep up with the numbers.
While the Growth Agenda continuous to bring in more students, Residence Life is taking a dorm building offline every year for renovations. This has been another factor in the overcrowding in dorms.
For some students, moving off campus can also be pricier than living in the dorms. Apartment prices sky rocket the closer to campus they are, and sometimes students pay over $2,000 a year to live in a small room in a run-down apartment.
Food prices are another aspect of off-campus living that can empty out a student’s pocket. Most have to settle with eating cheap cardboard pizza and roman noodles.
Bartlett said that it is beneficial for students to stay on campus, and studies have shown that when a person stays on campus longer, they have more success in their college career.
Moving off campus is a bit more complicated for students, and requires a higher level of responsibility, and accountability.
“We have the ability to offer individuals a different experience, but we’d like to have them all on campus,” Bartlett said.
With the Growth Agenda in place, it does not seem that Whitewater will be able to keep up with the amount of students needing on-campus housing.