Universities scramble on housing

By Jessica Bakeman/The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON – The effects of a system-wide 5.2 percent enrollment increase at Mississippi public universities might be seen in a variety of ways: more tuition dollars paid, more textbooks read, more cups of coffee sipped.
For those schools’ housing staffs, the nearly 4,000 additional students at seven of the eight universities manifest as more beds needed.
Several of Mississippi’s public universities plan to build more dormitory facilities to accommodate the increasing number of students applying for on-campus housing, and others were forced to turn away hundreds of students seeking house and home.
At Alcorn State University, where the increase was most significant – 709 new students, a nearly 20 percent increase from last year’s student body size – the number of students living on campus is up to 1,700 this year from about 1,300 in 2010-11.
Four buildings that were new last year, collectively called the Medgar Wiley Evers Heritage Village, provide the latest amenities to 1,003 residents but were built with the intention of replacing older facilities, said Jessica Foxworth, director of residence life.
With the enrollment surge, Foxworth filled the new buildings with students and used the old dorms – Beulah Robinson Hall and Albert Lott Hall, which were scheduled to be demolished eventually to make room for more new housing – to absorb the overflow.
Foxworth said the buildings are not substandard; they were simply scheduled to be replaced with newer facilities. Plans to demolish the buildings have shifted.
Eighty students at the University of Southern Mississippi had to move in twice this fall, first lugging their things into Vann Hall, an older, temporary living space that staff had not originally planned to use.
By the start of classes, the housing department received enough cancellations to move those students into permanent housing.
Mississippi State University saw twice as many upperclassmen looking to live on campus this year as the campus can accommodate, said E. Ann Bailey, director of residence life.
Housing is guaranteed only to freshmen, but the residence life office keeps a list of off-campus apartments students can utilize to find other options in Starkville.
MSU is planning for the future, Bailey said.
Next fall the school will open two new buildings on the newly cleared Arbor Acres site, adding 750 beds. In 2013, it will open 125 two-bedroom apartments for graduate students and their families on the Aiken Village site.
The University of Mississippi’s waiting list for housing included 400 students at the opening of the school year, most of whom had to find off-campus housing.
Lorinda Krhut, director of student housing and residence life, said Ole Miss, too, has had to limit its traditional residence halls to only freshmen, although there are still some apartment-style accommodations available to upperclassmen.
Next fall, three new buildings will open at Ole Miss, allowing for 865 more students to live on campus.
Several directors said a very real possibility is good, old-fashioned bunking.
“If it came to us having to put three to a room that’s designed for two, we’d do it,” Alcorn’s
Foxworth said.