Shortage Forces Upperclassmen To Reside Off Campus

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two years ago, it wasn't hard for upperclassmen at the University of Maryland at College Park to find housing on campus, but Casey Miller, 19, is finding out just how much things have changed.

Miller said she was forced to seek off-campus housing for her junior year next fall because school officials told her that the demand for on-campus residences is too high to accommodate many upperclassmen, if any.

Deb Grandner, director of resident life at U-Md., said it has become increasingly difficult to provide upperclassmen with housing.

U-Md. houses more than 8,000 students in campus residence halls and more than 2,500 in apartment communities affiliated with the university. Many of the apartments were constructed from 2000 to 2004 through public-private partnerships with developers, Grandner said.

But the university became a victim of its success, she said: "Their popularity has been a factor in the growing demand from our students."

As a result, she said, "it appears almost certain that this year's group of rising seniors, along with a significant number of rising juniors, will not be offered housing."

But give the university a few years. Construction will begin this summer on an apartment building expected to house about 360 students; it's supposed to open January 2010, Grandner said.

The long-term solution, however, involves a combination of new on-campus housing, public-private partnerships and private-sector housing development, she said.

That does nothing for Miller, who said she is angry because no one told her when she enrolled that a housing shortage was a possibility. She said that because it has happened before at U-Md., someone should have warned her.

"I knew there was a housing problem, but I never thought I'd have to live off campus," she said. "It's been stressful looking for an apartment. The prices are high, and the neighborhoods are not as safe as being on campus. . . . I had other options for college. It is possible I might have gone to a different school if I knew this could happen."

After a lot of searching, Miller said, she and her current roommate found housing for the fall -- at $200 more a month than they would have paid on campus.

"I don't like this," she said. "I am involved in a lot of activities on campus. . . . I don't like having to deal with traffic and waiting for the bus. This is not a good situation."

-- Valerie Strauss

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