For the second year in a row Western has opened its doors with every on-campus room filled and a handful of students left sitting on a waiting list. While those students are still hoping for a bed to sleep in come the start of classes on Monday, this is good news for Western.
With an estimated enrollment topping 6,000 students, this school year is anticipated to be the fifth consecutive year of enrollment increases.
Sean O’Reilly, acting director of housing and residential life said there were 48 students left on the waiting list the morning of Aug. 18. He said at one time the number reached as high as 137 students.
“We have been able to house everyone who applied during the renewal process, and all who applied by the priority deadline,” O’Reilly said. “After that, we were starting on a waiting list.”
O’Reilly said that there are more returning students to the residence halls than ever before which he is really impressed and excited about.
“We had the halls full and an ornate amount of students apply by deadline,” O’Reilly said. “That means they really wanted to be here.”
Judy Grimes, dean of student affairs said the priority deadline was May 1 and that all students have been placed who applied in May after the deadline and all but five who applied in June.
“Any student on the waiting list, except five, applied in July or August,” Grimes said. “And we have less than fifty left, mostly because housing, financial aid and admissions have done an excellent job about calling students this summer to confirm if they are actually attending Western or not.”
Students can remain on the list as long as they want. As students cancel contracts for the fall semester, residential life continues to place students who are on the waiting list. All first-time freshmen are required by policy to live on campus unless they meet any of the criteria for a waiver. Students on the waiting list will be allowed to appeal the policy to live off campus if they find other housing elsewhere.
O’Reilly said students on the waiting list have the options of seeking housing off campus, staying with a friends for a few weeks until a room becomes available or deferring their enrollment until the spring semester. If they do this, they will be first on the housing list for the spring.
“When you look at the situation, once you hit 100 on the list, it can normally be taken care of with cancellations and drops,” O’Reilly said. “If it gets any higher than that, you need to look at different options.”
President Robert Vartabedian said that according to enrollment officials, last year’s enrollment should have been the peak, meaning this year would have plateaued or began descending. Instead, Vartabedian said Western is looking at a 7-8 percent increase.
“While this is great news for the university, since we have a waiting list, this can cause a little bit of nervousness for the students,” Vartabedian said. “If we continue growing like this we need to have a plan in effect immediately for next fall.”
Vartabedian said in regards to housing, his future goals are to probably produce more housing, including further international housing, and possible graduate, married and Greek housing.
“As we grow the university, we will need some extra housing,” Vartabedian said. “We’ll just have to decide if we want to use university funds, private investors or even make short term arrangements with local apartments for reduced student rates.”
Grimes said housing will continue to place students throughout the semester but even when a room becomes available, it isn’t necessarily guaranteed to work with just any student on the list.
“Some of the challenges with the wait list is we don’t have freshmen in all the halls,” Grimes said. “We have to match students with rooms based on sex, smoking preference, grade level and age, but they are tracking vacancies to the minute.”
The housing committee is currently working with Mel Klinkner, Vice President for Financial Planning & Administration, to determine the best course of action for the future of housing in anticipation of continued enrollment.