217 students are on the waiting list for rooms next semester

The Western Carolina Journalist reported last month that WCU is officially out of residence hall space for returning students.

The lack of remaining room for students who submitted their Residence Hall Agreement forms and deposits has manifested in the form of a waiting list for students who want to live on campus but for whom there are currently no rooms.

The waiting list reached 200 students, was reduced to 160 by original efforts, and is currently back up to over 215. According to Director of Campus Services, Bryant Barnett, this actually happens more often than it doesn’t.

Albright-Benton residence halls. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

“Last year with the addition of 419 beds coming online for Noble, we actually took and made the Albright side of Albright-Benton private rooms, and even with that we didn’t go on a wait-list until July,” said Barnett. “In the last five or six years, that was the first time we didn’t have a wait-list right at the end of room selection.”

This may not be any consolation for students on the current waiting list, but it does stand in juxtaposition with fears that the growing student body is the reason for the limited space.

According to numbers provided by Director of Student Recruitment and Transitions, Phil Cauley, freshman enrollment has risen by more than 20 percent since Fall 2012, and he expects N.C. Promise to continue driving up application numbers. A lot of current students are wondering how the school can increase admissions at such a rate without being able to facilitate them.

“Now I have to figure out something, because they said it’s highly unlikely I’ll get a room and it’d be best to check into apartments. I can’t help but wonder why WCU is in a shortage of rooms for its current students,” Driver Blythe, a junior currently living in Norton, said.

The numbers provided by Phil Cauley show that WCU’s enrollment and total population have not increased at the same rate at which the number of applications has.

Brian Boyer, a residential case manager with the WCU Office of Residential Living, explained that it’s the shrinking amount of rooms that causes a bigger wait-list, not the amount of students growing, and referred to the shortage of rooms as part of a “seesaw effect.”

Buchanan residence hall. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

“We opened Noble so that we could take down Buchanan,” said Boyer. “This will be a trend for years to come. Open a building, tear one down, replace.”

It’s true that Buchanan is planned to go down, even in the wake of the growing student body, but it’s going to help the problem in the long run.

“This year, with the demolition of Buchanan and the plan to build back, we’re losing 191 beds with a plan to build back about 720 beds,” said Barnett.

The Director of Campus Services explained that major projects for residence halls always create a downward pressure on the amount of rooms the school can offer to students. He also said that the school’s “conservative” past has created a situation in which a lot of our residence halls are outdated. As a result of that, we can expect a lot of major projects for the dorms in the coming years.

Students on the list might be curious as to how long they have to wait and what sort of situation can lead to rooms opening up. Barnett gave some examples of times the school expects rooms to free up for those biding their time on the list.

Director of Campus Services Bryant Barnett. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

One of those reasons is that there is a May 1 deadline before which universities cannot revoke the offer of admission for incoming freshmen, even if they have not yet accepted. When that date rolls around, the school will be able to take rooms from freshmen who don’t plan on coming to Western, but who are guaranteed a room as first-year students for now. That space will be reallocated to non-freshmen who are on the wait-list.

Another reason Barnett expects rooms to open up is that some expected students who have submitted their deposits might cancel. He also said we can expect some students who don’t cancel to simply not show up. The number of spots these two things would shave off the waiting list are more than 25 and 40 respectively.

Until those dates come, students on the list are not guaranteed a room and are advised to seek other residential alternatives.

“I feel stressed. I don’t know where I’m going to live, or if I get to live anywhere, since I won’t know until so late. It’s hard to plan for an apartment now, especially with no car or funds,” Tanner Hyatt, a sophomore currently living in Blue Ridge, said.

Even if some students admit it creates a tough position to be in, not everyone is blaming the school for the scenario.

“At the end of the day, no more room is no more room, and I’d be angrier if they housed me in a building that is in serious need of repair than if they told me to seek out other options,” Sarah Krueger, a student who plans on living in an apartment next year, said.

At any rate, the shortage of rooms is causing tension between at least some students and the administration, and it will be interesting to see if the wait-list will shrink or even disappear next year, when the new Buchanan will be expected to be done.

WCJ will stay on the story and provide updates when available.