Overflow housing woes snaring more U of I students this year, but help on the way

By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV9

IOWA CITY, Iowa- More than 200 University of Iowa students beginning the “move-in” ritual for on campus housing Wednesday will end up packed into overflow areas like converted public lounges. But help is on the way to eliminate the housing overcrowding for the next school year.

Tom Rocklin, VP of Student Life at the U of I, said the need for temporary housing at the start of the school year is pretty much a constant as there are always more requests for dorm space than available rooms.

Last year, about 100 students had to stay in the overflow housing areas — usually converted lounge rooms.

This year, he said the number would probably be in the mid-200’s.

Both students and parents say word spreads to make those reservations for residence halls early to avoid becoming one of the unfortunate few.

Ramal Bell, a U of I freshman from Illinois, met one student in overflow housing when he arrived at his dorm.

“I met a kid, eight people have to be in there. It’s horrible, the space per person is cut to maybe a quarter of the size,” Bell said.

Seka Kaplarevic, a U of I parent also from Illinois, specifically told her soon to register the day the electronic system opened up.

“It’s like, probably, summer camp. You’re crowded but just don’t know for how long,” Kaplarevic said.

The discomfort didn’t last long last year. Rocklin estimated everybody was out of the overflow situation within a couple of weeks as some students dropped out and others changed housing plans freeing up dorm space.

With more than 200 students in temporary housing, clearing the converted lounges will take longer this year.

But Rocklin noted help is on the way in the form of a $53-million dollar new dorm on the west side of campus.

It’s the first new residence hall on campus since the late 1960s. And the project is on track for completion in early 2015 and will add 500 new dorm rooms for the next school year.

Simple math says that may eliminate the overflow issue for next year. But Rocklin notes that as enrollment grows, the on campus housing squeeze will return. So U of I leaders are looking beyond that one fix.

“We’re going to the regents in September to ask permission to plan a brand new residence hall to hold 700 to 800 people,” Rocklin said. That residence hall project, if approved, might be ready by 2017.

Rocklin called the 200 plus overflow students this school year about average. And it’s well below the problems at Iowa State with the overflow number there this year amounting to more than 400 students.

l Comments: (319) 368-8611; dave.franzman@kcrg.com

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