Last Saturday, Jean Rondeau, 20, loaded her father's orange Nissan truck for the trip to George Mason University, where she is a sophomore nursing student.
But when Rondeau went to the housing office, instead of assigning her to a dorm room, the school officials sent her to the Quality Inn-Fairfax City four miles away on Main Street.
"I think it's great," said Rondeau, who has been in the air-conditioned room with its own TV for a week. "I like the swimming pool. And, we have HBO. I love that. And, we don't have to freeze when we get out of the shower because they have those heat lamps."
Rondeau, a transfer student from a Maryland community college, is just one of 146 students at fast-growing George Mason who find that the university has fallen behind in the race to provide housing for all its students.
The university, which borders Fairfax City on the south, has grown from 4,166 students in 1972 to an estimated 15,200 this fall, but it still has campus housing for only 1,000. New dorms for 500 are planned for fall 1985, but until then the university will house students in 15 trailers recently acquired for a total of $530,000.
The problem is, the trailers -- called 'modular housing units' by university officials -- won't be ready until Sept. 15. So the students assigned to the "Patriots Village" trailer complex, including Rondeau, are making do elsewhere.
Some are still commuting from home. Sixteen have moved in with their resident advisers. Fifty are scattered in the dorms, living three to a room in rooms that usually house only two.
Then, there's the Quality Inn, where 57 students are paying the $1,150 per semester they ordinarily would for on-campus housing, and the university is making up the approximately $15-a-day additional cost of the motel rooms.
"We made a commitment to these kids that they will be housed, but we just couldn't honor it for three weeks," said George W. Johnson, president of George Mason.
At the Quality Inn, students have Monday and Thursday maid service. They also have the pool, which the hotel is keeping open past Labor Day for them.
But hotel life isn't all plush and room service. Instead of ordering down for prime rib or the $12.95 Tornedos Rossini a la Champignon, for example, the students have to hop a bus back to campus for tater tots and shepherd's pie.
There has been only one noise complaint from other hotel guests, and that was the first night, says hotel sales director Barbara Williams. "They're just very refreshing to have around," she added, "and we have no problem."
But, despite the good parts of hotel life, some students want the trailers.
The students at the motel also live three to a room in rooms designed only for two. There was so little hanging space that Eric Plough, a student adviser living at the motel, had to go to Hechinger's and buy portable clothes racks.
Ellen Maltz, l9, a sophomore transfer student in elementary education, arrived Sunday, suitcases and boxes crammed into a Chevette and a Cutlass. Now, her stuff is crammed in the hotel room she shares with two roommates.
In the middle of the afternoon, between classes, Maltz sits cross-legged on the hotel bed and watches a soap opera. A half-full bottle of Pepsi sits on the windowsill, hair dryers and a plug-in coffee pot are on the desk, a portable radio on the bedside table.
"We tried to squeeze things in," she said, looking around.
In his room, Ian McCalb, an l8-year-old freshman communications major from Milford, N.H., was lying on his bed, talking with two friends. He said hotel life was fine, but that he'd rather be in a dorm.
"I have to do a lot of running around to this and that," he said. "There's a lot of errands I have to get done. Buying books and opening up bank accounts and picking up student IDs. Laundry is a big problem."
McCalb hasn't turned on the television much. "I probably would watch HBO if they were showing anything good this month," he said.
"I'm pretty comfortable," he added. "I guess I just miss my stereo. It's still up in New Hampshire somewhere."
Shellie Tennyson, l8, a freshman computer science student from Colonial Beach, Va., is also at the hotel.
"The pool is nice -- considering that we don't have a pool at the school," she said. "I had signed up for a swimming class at the school, then I found out we didn't have a pool there and we'd have to travel 20 minutes to get to a pool, so I dropped that class."
"The hotel is really nice," she added. "I love it here. And, our room is nice. But, when you've got a class, you've got to travel on a bus. And, once we get into the trailers, it will just be so much easier because we'll be able to walk."