COLUMBIA – The forecast for a significant increase in student enrollment has MU's residential life department making additional plans to ensure all students will be housed next year.
After admitting the largest freshman class in MU's history last fall, the admissions office is reporting yet another increase in graduate, transfer and freshman applications.
According to a February enrollment update, freshman applications at MU have increased by 1,956 over this time last year. The number of admitted freshmen shows a 1,393 increase from this time last year. Freshman deposits have increased by 288 from fall 2008.
Barbara Rupp, director of admissions at MU, attributes the growth to students wanting an affordable education from a large public-research university, and strategically placed admissions representatives.
"We have two representatives living in the Chicago area and a few in Texas, as well as a large alumni base in the Dallas area," Rupp said.
Numbers from the Illinois area have increased by 1,225, and in Texas, applications have gone up by 111. Nonresident applicants have grown by 1,694 applications, she said.
Housing the increased student population continues to be a challenge. By next fall, Defoe-Graham Hall and Mid-Campus housing‚ as well as the new Dogwood, Galena and Hawthorn residence halls, will open for students, adding more rooms to campus.
The Hudson Hall renovation will be completed by fall 2010, and by 2017, all residence halls will have been upgraded, said Frankie Minor, director of residential life.
"We anticipate less space will be needed given the opening of Mid-Campus housing and Defoe-Graham. Combined with Hudson being closed for renovation, that still yields about 350 more beds on main campus than we had this past fall,” Minor said.
Because of the anticipated dorm expansion, less off-campus housing will be needed for the upcoming school year, Minor said.
Between 200 and 400 spaces will be available on the extended campus, down from more than 700 spaces this school year. Minor said demand for space this fall will be down because of the new dorms opening on campus.
Campus Lodge and Campus View have an agreement with residential life to provide space for MU students through their housing contracts, with costs billed to student accounts.
“Last spring in early to mid-April, we saw unprecedented demand by both returning students and new students for on-campus housing,” Minor said. “We identified and secured additional housing at our extended campus in May."
He acknowledged problems with public transportation during the first few days but said the extended campus has been good for students overall.
“There were some initial challenges in the first week regarding transportation based on high demand and student unfamiliarity with public transportation, but those issues were responded to very quickly and improved significantly,” he said. “Students seem to be very happy with this option.”
Complete renovation of residence halls can be a difficult task when a growing student population could outpace room supply. Last semester, first-time freshman enrollment increased 15.6 percent and overall student enrollment increased 6 percent. In the fall of 2007, freshman enrollment increased 3.3 percent and overall enrollment increased only 0.3 percent.
Harriet Green-Sappington, assistant director of facility operations, said the increased student enrollment was considered when developing the master plan.
“Capacities of new buildings and those slated for renovation were evaluated in developing the long-term schedule, and care was taken to avoid spikes and dips in capacity.”
However, Minor said, the level of enrollment increase was unexpected.
“We factored in some modest growth based on projected enrollment increases and demographic trends, but the significant increase we have experienced was unpredictable,” he said.