City, UI face housing crunch

FILE+-+The+University+of+Iowa+campus+looking+west+from+Old+Capitol+and+the+Pentacrest.

Tom Jorgensen/University of iowa

FILE – The University of Iowa campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

Kaylyn Kluck, [email protected]

A skyrocketing student population at the University of Iowa could lead to problems with both on- and off-campus housing.

Last fall, the university announced that the incoming freshman class was its largest in school history. According to data from the UI Provost’s Office, 6,349 freshmen enrolled — a 590-student increase over the previous year’s class.

UI Admissions Director Kirk Kluver said next year’s freshman class would be even larger.

“We are on track for another year of record enrollment with plans for sustainable and manageable growth,” he said.

But questions have arisen on whether the residence halls and the Iowa City area can handle the increasing number of students.

Several freshmen were placed in expanded housing during the fall 2015 semester when the dorms reached capacity. The problem has persisted for the past several years.

Currently, Quadrangle houses approximately 350 students.

It will be demolished after this semester, said Von Stange, the UI assistant vice president for Student Life.

He said that the opening of the Madison Street residence hall in the fall of 2017 would fix the current space issues.

“That will add another 1,000 beds to the system,” he said. “Once 2017 comes around, it will take a lot of pressure off of Housing and Dining.”

Given that, Stange outlined the housing strategy for next year.

First, some of the double rooms in the existing residence halls will be transformed into triples.

“Instead of putting two students, we’ll put three students in there,” he said.

Stange said the number of students returning to the residence halls in this fall will also be restricted and that students who reapply for on-campus housing will be put in a lottery. The students with the highest numbers will get to choose their rooms first, he said.

“Historically, it has generally worked out,” Stange said, “We haven’t had to turn away returning students in the residence halls.”

While the university may have the on-campus housing situation under control, there are concerns about what will happen when students move off-campus.

City Councilor John Thomas has studied the effect of rising student populations for years.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “It was a critical issue before the increase in student enrollment, and now, it has just become exacerbated by the fact that there will be increased demand for student housing.”

Thomas said he hopes City Council can work with the university on ways to handle a higher population of incoming students. He’s also concerned about preventing increased housing costs for both students and nonstudents.

Thomas said the market is being driven by the students’ housing demand.

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