SEMO students start to fill dorms on move-in day

Friday, August 17, 2012
Incoming Southeast Missouri State University students move into Towers East Thursday morning, Aug. 16, 2012 with help from their families and student helpers. (Laura Simon)

New arrivals began filing into Southeast Missouri State University on Thursday, the university's official move-in day, and joined an anticipated record high number of students who will live on campus.

"It's a little hectic for sure," said Nathan Mahert, a junior exercise science major and resident of Towers West. "I think the university has done a great job of keeping everything moving along, though. And everyone seems to be helping each other out as much as they can."

Second-year resident adviser Aaron Griffing said incoming freshmen were having minimal difficulty moving into rooms.

"I'm working with all freshmen over in Towers East and everything is going pretty quickly, even with some of the chaos," Griffing said. "There are many students who are getting moved in so easily that they are already going to stores to pick up more things for their room. The students themselves are really the reason for that. I just saw four guys carrying a couch up three flights of stairs for another student. I was amazed at that spirit."

On Wednesday, the university's Office of Residence Life had more than 3,000 housing contracts in place for this fall, which is close to full capacity for the campus' nine residence halls. Dr. Bruce Skinner, director of the office, said some contracts were still in flux.

"It's a situation that is still constantly changing right now. We normally see spots open up after students don't show up on campus because of last-minute decisions," Skinner said. "Right now, though, we're handling everything pretty smoothly. The students are very understanding."

The high number of students needing housing has caused the university to look for alternative options for some to ensure younger students, who have a two-year residency requirement, can have rooms in the dorms.

Some upperclassmen living in dorms were given the option to live at the Candlewood Suites hotel near Interstate 55 for the fall semester. As of now, 46 students will stay two to a room on the hotel's fourth floor, supervised by a graduate assistant. Each room has a kitchenette. Skinner said staying in the hotel is similar to living in an apartment.

The university has also taken other measures to alleviate overcrowding in the dorms. The Office of Residence Life has nearly completely avoided making private rooms available to upperclassmen in order to accommodate more students. Skinner said more upperclassmen are moving off campus because the option of a private room is no longer available. Resident advisers, who have traditionally had private rooms, are also being asked to share space as needed. Temporary space for student overflow has also been set up in Greek housing.

"I think we've really worked with the students on getting a handle on housing this year, and it has helped our ability to handle the situation," Skinner said. "We had some difficulty last fall because we were caught without many of these overflow options that are now in place. But we're on top of it, and the students and our staff are really working together well."

Enrollment director Dr. Debbie Below said the university expects to see growth in total enrollment this fall, although final numbers won't be known for a few weeks. In fall 2011, the university enrolled 11,510 students and assigned housing contracts to 3,017. Below said the number of freshmen enrollees has risen from around 1,600 students four years ago to around 1,900 students in 2011.

"These growing numbers do put tremendous pressure on our residence halls," Below said. "It's always a great thing for the university to grow. But it has caused complications in the past."

Numbers of international students have also risen, Below said. This year there are around 800, a high for the university. But Below said the plan for this semester was to recruit within their limits. In the past two years, deferments have been used to helped slow the number of freshmen enrollments; however, Below said none was necessary this year.

"We know what our housing capacity is, and we've seen what happens when we go over that," Below said. "Our goal going in to this semester was to use the space we have but stop there."

The university has started work on a $24.5 million, 262-bed, bond-funded residence hall north of the Seabaugh Polytechnic Building, that is scheduled to be completed in fall 2013. Plans for a 150- to 175-bed residence hall near the River Campus that will include around 30,000 square feet of performance space and classrooms are also in the works. The newest dorm, Merick Hall west of Houck Stadium, opened in August 2009 at a cost of $23.7 million.

jdsamons@semissourian.com

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