By Marissa Payne
Living in the residence halls may become a more attractive option to students returning to the University of Iowa after their first year.
University Housing & Dining is proposing reduced rates for some single rooms with amenities for its on-campus housing facilities “to assist with the recruitment and retention of returning students” who seek more privacy and amenities, according to a report from the state Board of Regents.
In recent years, the availability of housing on-campus and in Iowa City has been an issue for UI students as a result of burgeoning enrollment and an insufficient amount of living space on-campus. That has changed thanks to efforts to manage enrollment as well as construction on-campus and in Iowa City.
One of the UI’s enrollment-management efforts included adjusting the application deadline for admissions, moving it from May to March in 2017. The incoming first-year class size shrunk by 600 students, bringing the total to 5,029.
According to regents’ documents, “based on admissions indicators to date, an entering first-year class of 4,850 new first-time students from high school is currently estimated for fall 2018, 177 students fewer than the current first-year class.”
“The size and growth of our student body are not our prime objectives; rather, we are focused on the quality of the outcomes for our students,” UI President Bruce Harreld told the regents in September 2017.
Additionally, two new residence halls have opened since 2015, when Petersen Hall opened on the West Campus and again in 2017 with the opening of Catlett Hall, allowing the UI to house 6,745 students. The plan for fiscal 2019 is to bring that number down to 6,665.
Prior to Catlett’s opening, the UI used to provide students with “expanded housing” in residence-hall lounges, in which up to eight people could live for a reduced rate while waiting for a bed to open up in a room in one of the residence halls.
The new hall nixed that need, UI Student Life Assistant Vice President Von Stange said, and allowed the university to convert triples into more single and double rooms. That will enable the UI to end its off-campus leases, opening those rooms up for the community.
Increased space means the UI has more opportunities to retain students in its on-campus facilities. Stange said his staff is actively marketing to returning students to let them know they can return to the halls through efforts such as a campaign and partnering with admissions.
“We have found that … a lot of students didn’t recognize that they could live on-campus for more than one year,” he said.
UI Student Government City Council Liaison Ben Nelson said retention in campus housing would be beneficial because students have more access to resources and services in the residence halls, and data show improved GPAs for students living in dorms.
For students living off-campus, Nelson said, UISG is looking into increased partnerships with residence education and working with the city as it continues developing to push for marketing of student-oriented neighborhoods.
“The city and the residents are recognizing that we’re changing,” he said. “With change, there’s going to be some reluctance here and there, but overall it’s for the better health of the community.”