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University of Maryland forced to turn lounges into rooms and add roommates

Students take their belongings into Elkton Hall during move-in day at the University of Maryland  in College Park.
Students take their belongings into Elkton Hall during move-in day at the University of Maryland in College Park. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

When University of Maryland freshmen begin filling their cars with belongings to cram into their new dorm rooms in College Park this week, they might want to reconsider and pack light.

That’s because dozens will find they have not just one, but two or three roommates this year, after a larger-than-expected number of students accepted a place at the university this past spring.

The university has been able to add 350 spaces on the campus this summer by converting dormitory lounges into rooms and adding another student to double and triple rooms.

The Office of Resident Life had gone so far as to offer a $750 incentive to upperclassmen who would agree to give up their dorm room and move off campus to free up space. But only 19 students had accepted the offer to cancel their housing early this week.

“As a result of UMD’s targeted recruitment efforts and the strength of the Maryland brand, this year we’ve experienced a higher than expected confirmation rate for our incoming class,” U-Md. spokeswoman Jessica Jennings said in an email.

She said the Department of Resident Life converted dorm lounges to rooms for four students that lock and are equipped with the same furniture as other dorm rooms. The university said it could not provide enrollment figures for the fall.

In the end, Deborah Grandner, the Resident Life director, said the university has found housing for all the students who signed up by May 1 to live on campus this year. The university promised to accommodate anyone who asked for housing by that deadline.

An additional 130 students, however, who applied after the deadline are on a wait list and are getting help locating off-campus housing. The Off-Campus Housing Office and the Department of Resident Life held an off-campus housing fair last month, which offered a chance for students to meet apartment managers and private landlords with space, as well as find potential roommates.

Students said it is too early to tell whether the incoming class will find the rooms too tight.

“I think that there is some concern going into it. But our resident students have not moved back in yet, so they can’t judge until they have experienced it,” said Brian Gallion, a senior and president of the Residence Hall Association, a body that represents the interests of students living on campus.

Gallion has seen the converted rooms and said they are a “little more cramped. It is a nontraditional living arrangement but not the worst possible situation.” He said he would not find the rooms too small.

Doron Tadmor, chief of staff of the University of Maryland Student Government Association, said he believes there needs to be better communication between the admissions office and the Department of Resident Life so that the university isn’t scrambling to find dorm space at the last minute.

“It is the second year in a row this has happened,” he said.

Thirty thousand applicants, one flagship: Inside admissions at U-Md.

When students apply to the university they generally assume that they will have a place in a dorm the first year, rather than believing they need to start looking for housing immediately, Tadmor said.

Although campus housing is tight, enough apartments exist within walking distance of campus and buses are convenient, Tadmor said.

The University of Maryland isn’t alone. Towson University, which has grown quickly in the past decade, to 22,300 students this fall including more than 19,000 undergraduates, has experienced the same need for more on-campus housing.

Sean Welsh, acting senior director of communications at Towson University, said that the university has “the largest incoming class we have ever had at the university.”

“We have been growing steadily through the last few years,” he said. “You can imagine the challenge that presents for student housing.”

Towson University will open the Residences at 10 West Burke Avenue, a Marriott hotel that was converted to apartments for transfer students after a $2 million renovation. The university has more than 2,300 transfer students entering this fall. The university also opened a newly renovated dorm — The Residence Tower — after a two-year, $34 million facelift.

— Baltimore Sun

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