Housing crunch as local university prepares for large freshman class


Reporter - Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Administrators at SIU-Carbondale have fought enrollment troubles for years. But they believe this year's freshman class could be the one to turn the tide.

After an overhaul of recruitment strategies, early numbers indicate a 16% increase in freshmen this fall. That equates to about 350 more students than last year. Now the university is scrambling to find them all a place to live.

"You can only grow enrollment one class at a time, and it has to be on the freshman level," said Chancellor Rita Cheng.

If the statistics hold true, SIU-Carbondale could welcome its largest freshman class since 1998. That means housing comes at a premium.

"This gets back to the days when there was high demand for SIU," said Cheng.

The residence halls, though empty now, are being reconfigured. The university's asking some students with single rooms to take on a roommate.

Resident Assistants have been put on alert, too. Some of them may have to share rooms for a short time with new students.

"We're not going to turn anyone away. What we're going to do is temporarily house where we can," said Cheng.

The chancellor said the university's opening up more sections of freshman classes to meet the demand.

But even though the number of freshmen will increase, overall enrollment may still decrease as smaller classes work their way out.

Regardless, Cheng believes the housing crunch this year is a good sign for the future.

"In over a decade we haven't had that kind of juggling to do," she said.

The university took three residence halls offline last year. The chancellor said that's also another reason for the tight housing conditions.