Living on campus is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity,’ but with an overflow of residents and roommate disagreements, it can cause unnecessary anxiety for students.
Brandi Guenther, a first-year nursing major, will be living in an apartment off-campus next year because she said her health is more important than following housing requirements.
“Living on campus is hard, but I wanted the experience. It’s a once in a lifetime thing… but I just want to be comfortable in my own area,” she said. “I do feel bad for lying about commuting from my parents’ house, but I also have to do what’s best for me and my health. And I know this is what’s best for me.”
Traditionally, students are required to live in on-campus housing for their first and second year at South Dakota institutions. Students, like Guenther, can file for housing exemptions if their parents’ home is within a 60-mile radius from the school.
Cody Burggraff, Assistant Director of University Housing, said 60 miles has been the requirement since he started in housing and there is little chance of it changing in the future.
“If you could fly from Vermillion to wherever home is at, that is the distance we measure it… which actually helps students out,” he said. “You do have to live with a full-time legal guardian figure. It’s not shifting at all. Everything is always up for review if numbers are dedicated it.”
The 2018-19 freshmen class saw an increase in enrollment by 6.4 percent from the previous freshmen class, a jump of 96 students enroll. In the next two years, the university plans to continue growing the number of students enrolling by 30 in 2019 and 26 in 2020.
USD accepted 3257 first-year students in 2018, and only 1270 actually enrolled. Next year the university hopes to increase the acceptance by 129 students and 67 students in 2020.
Although another increase is anticipated in class size, housing is not currently concerned with on-campus dorms for next year.
“If we opened today, we would not be full. We recognize that we have four more months until August though, so things can change and students are still applying and student are still being accepted, and we don’t have those numbers and it’s hard to predict what those numbers will be,” Burggraff said. “We are only 10 percent through for the next academic year as far as figuring out placement and occupancy.”
Part of the preparation housing has done is transition 36 rooms in Brookman hall from single to double rooms. Burgaff said the building was designed as double rooms so it won’t be a challenging transition.
“We’re just adding the beds, it was designed when it was built to be double occupants. There’s no extra strain on the facility,” he said. “There are just going to be 36 extra beds. It’s designed to handle that plus more, but we are not willing to expand that more at this time.”
Other dorms traditionally reserved for upperclassmen–Burgess and Norton–have had their first floors designated for potential freshman overflow.
“Nothing is changing as far as capacity, but we did shift. We have taken the first floors of Burgess and Norton and made it first-year students because we did have some open upperclassmen dorms this year or people in rooms by themselves,” Burgraff said. “If we do bring in another large first-year class, we do have some room for some flexing there as well as next year’s upper-class students that are currently first-years.”
This year, the size of the freshman class forced students into lounges and didn’t move into dorms until the second semester. Guenther said although she was lucky enough to get a room, she had friends who lived in lounges and they said it was challenging to feel like they were actually in college.
“(My friend) barely had a discount with her housing payment, and I think it’s really disappointing honestly. She said her college experience didn’t even start until she moved into a dorm room her second semester,” Guenther said.
Nybol Kur, a first-year nursing major, lived in a lounge with three other girls through the fall 2018 semester. She said not knowing when they would be moved caused a lot of stress among the four of them.
“It gave me anxiety. I was so used to these people now and they are going to move me out and I’m going to have to make another friend,” she said. “When I finally did move, it was awkward. The roommate I had was really quiet and we just didn’t click like my other friends.”
Kur said her situation wasn’t what she was expecting, but she said she thinks housing handled the overflow as best as they could.
“They found a place for us to live at least instead of just saying we are out of space. I think next year, there are a lot of incoming freshmen, and I think they should set a limit and a deadline. If you don’t apply at a certain deadline than you can’t live in the dorms,” Kur said. “Obviously, if there was a strict deadline, I would have applied so much earlier.”
Although she said her year on campus was enjoyable, one year was enough, Guenther said.
“I think one year is definitely enough. I think being comfortable and having privacy is important,” she said. “Having my own personal space will help a lot with my anxiety because it will feel homier.”
Occupancy is always challenging, Burgaff said, because it’s a moving target.
“Occupancy is always a puzzle that housing has been trying to figure out, and we do our best to accommodate everyone,” he said. “It’s not something that just plays out, we try to get everyone’s preferences as well. It is a giant puzzle that we are trying to piece together right now. It is challenging but it is a fun challenge because you get to see the reward when students move in.”