Student housing crisis: When supply can’t keep up with demand

Jeremia Schrock

Sun Star Reporter

There are several key hurdles that most incoming freshmen have to overcome: sign up for classes, survive student orientation and get housing. For some students, that last hurdle has proven a far more difficult task than the rest. According to Kevin Huddy, Director of Residence Life, the university is experiencing an overflow of students for the second time in the past 10 years.

Amber Fulkerson, a resident assistant (RA) for the 4th floor of Moore where at least two overflow students are currently being housed, said that her building, as well as the entire Moore-Bartlett-Skarland complex, is full to capacity.

“There’s no room to put them,” Fulkerson said. “So, we’re are like, ‘Crap, now what?’ We don’t just want to leave them out in the cold.”

According to Huddy, UAF is doing three things about this problem.  Students are being notified not to seek housing on campus.  Students already here are being housed in Bartlett’s student lounges.  Finally, New Student Orientation (NSO) has struck a deal with several local hotels for a reduced rate.

Huddy said the root of the problem is that the entire Skarland building, primarily freshmen dorm, had to be shut down in order to refurbish the plumbing.

“Pipes just wear out,” he said.

Skarland has been closed for repairs since August 1 and is expected to reopen in March. “If we had Skarland, we wouldn’t have this issue,” Huddy said.

While the waitlist has continued to hover at around a dozen students on any given day, according to Huddy, those on the waitlist are not on it for very long.Huddy also believes that part of the housing crunch is to be blamed on those students who are waitlisted.  If students hadn’t waited so long to apply for student housing, Huddy said, they might not be in their current predicament. “It’s kind of their fault that they’re in this pickle,” he said.

One student who was forced to temporarily go without campus housing was Amber Sandlin. Sandlin was first notified about the housing situation in early August.  A Residence Life employee contacted her to say that there were already 14 female students ahead of her on the waitlist. Sandlin said that what she felt at the time “was kind of like a cross between anger and resolve,” adding that the situation left her irritated at the university.Emily Machos, Summer Housing Coordinator, recently notified Sandlin that her application had been approved and that a dorm was available in McIntosh. Sandlin took the dorm without hesitation.

Rebecca Coleman, an RA for Bartlett’s 6th floor, has only assisted one overflow student personally but she is nonetheless aware of the housing crunch that UAF is currently facing. “[UAF] is putting people anywhere they have space,” she said, citing a meeting she and other RA’s had with Huddy before the semester began.

Coleman added that she felt part of the housing problem stemmed from the university experiencing an inordinate number of buyouts. A buyout occurs when a single student, who has been placed in a double-occupancy dorm, decides to “buy out” the other half, therefore giving a single occupant the space of two. While Coleman’s floor has room for 46 students, there will be only 34 in residence. Out of 19 double occupancy rooms, 12 were bought out on her floor alone.

“I don’t know why they let so many people pre-buyout their dorms,” she said. “It really limits space.”When asked if certain types of students were being favored over others, Huddy said originally that it was a “first-come, first-serve sort of arrangement,” but that the “priority [is] always going to go to freshmen.” Huddy cited the difficulty of out-of-town and out-of-state freshmen in finding housing in the area. “It’s going to be hard for them to come up here and find a place to stay” without ever having visited the city or the campus beforehand, Huddy said.

Editor’s Note: Amber Sandlin and Rebecca Coleman, interviewed in this article, are also Sun Star employees.

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