COLUMBIA — When MU Residential Life offered to pay returning students to cancel their housing contract, MU junior Sami Ware jumped at the chance.
“I was like, hey, I need money,” Ware said.
Ware was one of the first students to accept the offer. Although she was excited to receive the $1,000 credit to her MU account, she had a tough time finding a place off-campus to live.
“Honestly, I just got a place to live, like, an hour ago,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “Up until now, it was really bad.”
Ware was one of about 100 students who took the incentive. The original offer was $500, but when only about 35 students accepted it, it was bumped up to $1,000, said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life.
“Some people expected there to be a huge surge when we offered students the incentive, but actually there wasn’t,” Minor said. “That tells you that the majority of those students really like living on campus.”
This was the first time Residential Life offered students monetary credit as an incentive to break their contract, and it was part of Residential Life’s efforts to house the incoming freshmen class. For the first time in Minor’s 17 years at MU, a cap was set on the number of returning students who could live in the residence halls so that freshmen could be accommodated.
The cap is 1,900 returning student contracts, and it was based on the prediction that the incoming freshman class would be about the same as last year's class of 5,589 students. Also in play is that typically, a number of returning students apply for housing as a safety net then find housing off campus, Minor said. Residential Life expected the number of contracts to drop to about 1,425 by the time school starts.
While the number of returning contracts dropped, the number in the freshmen class rose. Residential Life received 5,437 contracts from freshmen by the June 1 deadline and 195 afterward. To make room for the freshmen, they offered the $1,000 credit.
Other efforts to accommodate what Minor said might be the largest freshmen class ever at MU — the official enrollment will be tallied on the 20th day of classes — include two new off-campus housing options, the return of Tiger Diggs and the re-opening of Hudson Hall.
MU now offers the vacant Prunty Hall, northeast of MU at Stephens College, as a housing option. Previously, MU has rented Hillcrest Hall from Stephens. “At most, we will have 108 students over there,” Minor said of Prunty Hall, 1310 Windsor St.
The students will be there no longer than a semester. As rooms open, students at Prunty will have the opportunity to move to main or extended campus. After fall semester, they will be required to move. Minor said that although Prunty will be coed, it will house mostly men, making them “kind of an anomaly” at Stephens College, which as a women’s college has few male students.
TRUE Scholars, another new housing option, is at the former Liahona House, 1211 University Ave. There, 26 sophomores, juniors and seniors, along with a staff member, will share a kitchen, dining room and living room. Students are still required to purchase a meal plan.
Tiger Diggs, at Campus View Apartments, 301 Campus View Drive, was not supposed to be used for extended campus, as it has in past years. This year, it will house 336 students. Originally, Mizzou Quads at the Campus Lodge apartment complex was planned to be the only off-campus MU housing option.
Hudson Hall, which closed for renovations in December 2008, will reopen. About 20 extra bed spaces in Hudson were added by temporarily converting study rooms into bedrooms, Minor said. As soon as space is available, the students will be transferred to permanent rooms, and the bedrooms will be converted back into study lounges.
Another space-saving tactic is assigning roommates to about 85 student staff members with double-sized rooms. Residential staff members usually do not have roommates.
Those in temporary housing will be the first ones moved once rooms become available.
When Hudson reopens, so will Rollins Dining Hall. An exterior staircase will allow students to access the dining hall without entering the residential hall. Gillett Hall, which is attached to Rollins and Hudson, closed in December 2009 and is scheduled to open in August 2011.
Cramer and Stafford residential halls are closed permanently. They will be demolished to make room for University Hospital to build its Patient Care Tower. Demolition of Stafford is planned to start Aug. 23, the first day of classes, Minor said.
Residential Life planned for the loss of these buildings. They increased the number of beds built in College Avenue Hall by about 100 and built 326 more beds than originally planned. The new connecting hallway between Defoe and Graham halls also added about 60 beds. These additions nearly equal the capacity of Cramer and Stafford halls.
Freshmen who submitted their housing contract by the June 1 deadline are guaranteed housing through Residential Life. Minor said they are able to house all of the women who submitted their contracts after the date and expect to be able to do the same with the men.
Rooms become available when students cancel contracts or decide to move out. Minor said they lose about 300 to 400 contracts before the first day of school. Many are men who choose to live at a fraternity house. So far, 150 freshmen have canceled their contracts. About 8 to 10 percent of the residence hall population leaves at semester for various reasons, Minor said.
Minor said Residential Life is working with the Office of Admissions and division of enrollment management to come up with a series of scenarios for housing in the coming years.
“The challenge is we have to make our decisions pretty early on," Minor said.
The prediction for the size of the freshmen class is made in November or early December of the preceding year, about nine months before classes start.