Southeast expects a record number of campus residents this semester

Sunday, August 14, 2011
Tianxu Zhu wheels his belongings across the walkway entering his new residence at Dearmont Hall on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University Saturday, August 13, 2011 in Cape Girardeau, Mo. (Laura Simon)

After 16 hours on a plane from China and two more on a shuttle from the St. Louis airport, Tisu zu Zhu looked relieved Saturday to see his new room in Dearmont Hall on the Southeast Missouri State University campus.

"My arm is burning," he said, as he dragged his final suitcase into place beside his bed.

He was one of 15 international students arriving on campus early to get acquainted with their new surroundings.

Yasir Ansari is a graduate assistant who greeted the students and sent them off with guides to their rooms. He told the students at first they may be alone until the rest of the students begin to arrive in a few days.

The new arrivals will have plenty of company come Thursday, the university's official move-in day, when they are joined in the dorms by an anticipated all-time high number of students who will live on campus. On Friday, the university's office of residence life had more than 3,100 housing contracts in place for this fall, and associate director of residence life Kendra Skinner said some contracts were still trickling in.

The high number of students has caused the university to look for suitable off-campus housing options for some upperclassmen so younger students who must abide by the university's two-year residency requirement can have rooms in the dorms.

Upperclassmen living in dorms were sent emails earlier in the summer by the office of residence life, asking if they would be interested in living at the newly-constructed Candlewood Suites hotel near Interstate 55 for the fall semester.

The response to the email was good, said Skinner, and this fall around 50 students will stay two to a room on the hotel's fourth floor, supervised by a graduate assistant. Each room has a kitchenette, and Skinner said staying in the hotel is similar to apartment-style living. The university will switch out hotel furniture with dorm room furniture Monday.

The university has also taken other measures to alleviate overcrowding in the dorms. Earlier in the summer, the university announced deferred admission for students who lived outside a 50-mile radius of the campus.

Enrollment director Dr. Debbie Below said the university expects to see another 2 percent growth in total enrollment this fall. In the fall of 2010, the university had 11,112 total undergraduate and graduate students, including 1,928 freshmen. However, she said she expects freshmen enrollment will be down slightly because of the deferred admissions.

Below said four years ago the university began seeing numbers of freshmen enrollees rise from between 1,500 and 1,600 students to around 1,800 students in 2009.

"Those larger numbers began putting tremendous pressure on the residence halls," Below said.

Numbers of transfer students have also risen, Below said. This year there are around 700.

The intent this year was not to grow the freshman class any further, she said.

"We knew what our housing capacity was, and needed to try to recruit to that capacity," she said.

Even though the deferments may have helped slow the number of freshmen enrollments, residence life staff has been working on additional accomodations for incoming students, such as setting up student lounges as temporary living quarters for students in Towers East, South and North.

Skinner said students placed in lounges will be moved to a permanent room within two weeks after the start of classes.

"We will traditionally see around 30 to 40 spots open up after students who have signed housing contracts don't show up on campus because of making last-minute decisions," Skinner said. Often the openings come because students will change their minds on where to go to college and decide to leave, or don't show up at all, she said.

The university has decreased the number of private rooms available to upperclassmen to accomodate more students. Last year, Skinner said, around 70 students had private rooms. This year that number is down to five. Skinner said some upperclassmen may have moved off campus because the option of a private room was no longer available, but it had to be done to fit in more students. Resident advisers who have traditionally had private rooms are also being required to share space, she said.

Local landlords say the housing crisis at the university hasn't caused a dramatic change in availability of apartments from the same time last year, but some apartments seemed to fill up more quickly earlier in the summer. David Soto of Soto Property Management said he still had a few open apartments or homes available for student rental as of Friday. He said one thing he had noticed different was a seemingly larger number of younger applicants interested in rentals.

Linda Henson, a manager of Cape Trails, an apartment complex on North Sprigg Street, said contracts for the apartments in the complex were mostly in by June and all in by July this year.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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