Photo Caption: Construction work on a new South Green dorm complex this past summer.
Ohio University currently has more housing deposits from students, about 8,268 as of Tuesday, than it has current space for those students, which sits at about 8,151 beds on its Athens campus. OU starts its fall semester in 11 days.
Despite those worrisome numbers, Peter Trentacoste, executive director of residential housing at the university, said Tuesday that students coming to live in the residence halls should not worry about not having a bed to sleep in.
"Everybody that's been admitted will have a place to stay," he affirmed.
Some 8,135 of the 8,268 students who have submitted housing deposits, which cost $200 and serve as an identifier of a student who wants or needs to live at residential housing on campus, have been assigned to a space so far.
Those 133 students currently unassigned to a room need not fret, however. Trentacoste said while the dorms on OU's Athens campus have an occupancy limit of 8,151 beds, the capacity to house students on campus can be considerably more.
"We are currently at over 100 percent of occupancy, and we're now identifying additional space that goes outside our occupancy," he said. "The capacity (to house students) is a different number. It's basically, what is the maxed-out number you can house in the worst-case scenario?"
Trentacoste said to house those 133 students, Residential Housing is working to expand the occupancy of about 5 percent of the rooms on campus.
He said to do that, some "double" dorm rooms with two beds are in the process of being converted into "triples," with an extra bed and amenities added to the space before students' move-in date.
"We need to make sure it was either built that way or the space is such that it could actually legitimately fit three people in it," Trentacoste said of the dorm spaces to be converted. "We don't want people to have triple bunks or anything like that."
He also said some residential assistants (RAs) will have to take on a roommate on a non-permanent basis. Some unused apartments, usually reserved for staffers and mainly located in South Green dormitories, also will be converted for temporary student use.
Trentacoste said the students and RAs who take on an additional roommate will be compensated accordingly, and that the arrangement will not be permanent. RAs will be paid an additional $75 per week on top of their usual stipend pay, and students will receive $300 off the cost of their housing per semester if they're in a situation where they are taking on an extra roommate.
Trentacoste said a number of RAs and students who may have to accept an additional roommate were notified a few weeks ago about the possibility.
Universities that are over their capacity for housing at the beginning of fall semesters is not a new or particularly unheard-of problem, Trentacoste said. While some universities will put students up in hotel rooms off campus, he said that will not be the case at OU.
"We want all Bobcats to start here at OU," he said.
While the new freshman class, as The Athens NEWS has previously reported, will likely be larger or as large as the previous year's freshman class, which was up 356 students from the year before, Trentacoste said the size of the incoming freshman class was not a significant contributor to the problem with housing capacity.
He noted that of the current 8,268 housing deposits from students, about 4,354 of the contracts came from incoming freshmen.
"It isn't an issue of admissions admitting too many people," he said. "We're not tracking that the first-year numbers look like they're way over where they were last year."
OU saw about 20,913 applications for its upcoming fall semester as of a July 13 report in The Athens NEWS, a record 5 percent increase in application numbers for fall semester from last year. A preliminary tally of enrollment numbers for OU's fall semester will not be available until the OU Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 28.
Non-commuting OU freshmen and sophomores are required to live in on-campus residential housing. Singles cost $3,714 per semester, doubles cost $3,025, and multi-occupancy rooms (triples and quads) cost about $2,822 per semester. Those numbers increase by about $200 if the dorms the student lives in have been recently renovated or built.
Trentacoste said housing capacity on campus will not increase by any significant amount with the new 914-bed residential housing complex on South Green currently under construction. He said all 15 of the back-South Green (aka, New South Green) residence halls are tentatively scheduled to be razed at some point in the 2015-2016 academic year after the new South Green complex is completed in fall semester 2015.
He said Cady House, Foster House and Brough halls will be first to go. The back-South Green dorms will be used as swing space in the meantime to house students after the complex is completed if the university goes beyond its housing occupancy limit, like it did this year.
In the early to mid-'70s, when OU's main campus enrollment plunged to below 14,000, the university actually closed some dorms, including Washington Hall on East Green, and converted many double rooms into singles, charging a premium to students for that benefit.