Southeast Missouri State University students will return to campus later this month in larger numbers than expected. The sudden trend spurred an announcement by the university earlier this week to defer admissions for students living outside a 50-mile radius of Cape Girardeau starting Monday. Students who wait until after Friday to complete the admissions process and live outside the service region will be deferred to spring semester.
"The number of applications throughout the summer has been steady," said Dr. Debbie Below, assistant vice president of enrollment management and director of admissions at Southeast.
Typically the number of students reserving a spot at the university tapers off, she said. Classes start Aug. 23.
Below said other schools are also seeing an uptick.
"I think the economy has more students attending colleges," she said.
Southeast expects about 1,925 freshmen this fall, Below said. The university had more than 1,800 for the past three years. New transfer students, she said, are expected to increase by 25 percent to more than 700 students.
Last August, there were 2,703 students living in Southeast's residence halls on move-in day. The university also brought its newest residence hall online to house more students.
Dr. Bruce Skinner, director of Residence Life, said Tuesday there are 240 more housing contracts compared to last year.
The university is making arrangements but wanted to avoid temporary measures like hotels or putting beds in student lounges.
"We didn't want to do those more drastic steps to keep people coming," Skinner said.
More housing will open up where the Department of Public Safety was previously housed in Dearmont Hall. The space will be converted back to dormitories. Two unused floors in Greek housing will be used to accommodate non-Greek students, Skinner said.
Skinner said 64 percent of new students are living on campus. Students are required to spend their freshman and sophomore years on campus. There are exceptions for sophomores with good academic standing, married students, students older than 21, students with children and those commuting from their parents' house, he said. Transfer students must have an associate degree or more than 57 credit hours to forgo student housing.
If the increased demand continues, Skinner said, the university will have to look at how many returning students are allowed on campus, possibly using a lottery process.
The deferral will affect students outside the university's service region. Students who send in their housing contracts by Friday will be accommodated.
"We're just saying we can't accept more," Skinner said.
The university took similar measures in 2007.
Below said the move would traditionally affect about 10 students, who wait to complete the admissions process. With the upward trend, the number could have been higher, she said.
"Even those 10 contracts would be a problem at this point," she said.
One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO