More students staying in residence halls plus an anticipated enrollment increase mean a new lease on life for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cather Residence Hall.
The university announced Tuesday that it will reopen the residence hall this fall. It had closed the building in May in anticipation of the opening of the new 513-bed University Suites residence hall at 18th and R Streets.
But based on the number of housing contracts received so far, housing officials decided to put the 50-year-old residence hall at 609 N. 17th St. back into service.
Sue Gildersleeve, UNL’s director of housing, said more students are returning to on-campus housing. Part of that increase, she said, has to do with the university’s new suite-style and apartment-style housing, which tends to be popular with upperclassmen.
“It may be part of the story that we’re making some gains on that,” she said.
At the same time, university officials are optimistic they’ll be able to announce an enrollment increase this fall, said Alan Cerveny, dean of enrollment management.
The coming school year will be the first in an initiative announced by UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman to increase enrollment to 30,000 students by 2017.
UNL isn’t the only college campus in the region watching — or adding to — its space.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha still has about 200 of its 2,100 campus housing spaces available. But officials there expect those beds to be full by the time school starts.
In Iowa, the Board of Regents this spring agreed to allow Iowa State University to lease five off-campus apartment buildings with 503 beds for a year to temporarily boost its capacity, said Pete Englin, director of residence.
Iowa State is expecting its second consecutive year of record enrollment and its seventh year in a row of enrollment growth, officials said. It’s also seen an 8.5 percent increase in the number of students returning to live on campus.
UNL officials said they can’t yet say how many students they expect, given that enrollment and housing contracts still are in flux. Housing contracts will continue to be accepted through August.
But the numbers were enough to signal the need for more space, they said. In previous years when housing requests have exceeded capacity, students have been assigned temporary quarters in converted lounges in traditional residence halls.
This year, however, the high number of students seeking on-campus housing made that option impractical, Gildersleeve said. And while the lounges aren’t a bad solution, re-opening Cather allows the university to assign students to rooms they can use all year and to keep the lounges open for studying, meetings and socializing.
“One of the benefits of living on campus is the opportunity to form community and roommate bonds,” she said. “We’ve found that students in temporary housing are usually reluctant to move out of the community later in the year when a permanent space becomes available.”
Plans call for eventually demolishing Cather and neighboring Pound Hall, but no date has been set for either. Cather, which is air-conditioned, was not being mothballed, and no fixtures had been removed. Most furniture is built-in. The university is buying additional beds and hiring some additional staff.
“That’s part of the reason it was so easy to bring it back,” Gildersleeve said.
Pound remains open and is scheduled to close in May 2014.
University Suites was intended to help replace the lost capacity. A third suite-style hall is slated to open in 2014. The Robert E. Knoll Residential Center opened in 2010.
Room assignments for students who signed contracts after April 1 are being sent this week, and some of those students will be assigned to Cather. Gildersleeve said she expects to have about half of the 13-floor residence hall open again when fall classes begin Aug. 26.