University of Kentucky overbooked dorms, working to solve problem
The University of Kentucky’s dormitories are overbooked, with about 400 more applications for housing than there are available beds.
The university is working to make room for the record number of students who want to live on campus this fall.
To tackle this challenge, UK has been converting study areas in its residence halls into dorm rooms and will assign resident advisers (commonly known as RAs), who live and work in the dorms and act as a resource for students, to two-person rooms.
There are 2,425 students who stayed in a residence hall last year and chose to live on campus again during the 2019-20 academic year, which begins next month, according to UK. In addition to these so-called “returners,” UK is expecting its biggest incoming class in history with more than 5,450 students planning to enroll, a majority of whom are looking to live in the dorms.
The current space limitations came to light after students’ summer orientations ended earlier this month, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said, because that’s when the school got a more definitive look at what the volume of requests would be for housing this fall.
Although college RAs usually get their own solo dorm room, Blanton said pairing them with a roommate isn’t unusual when there’s limited capacity. (The school took similar steps in 2015, for example, when it hit its prior record for first-year enrollment with more than 5,200 freshmen.)
A petition that was posted anonymously on change.org by someone who identified themselves as a “concerned RA” is critical of UK’s overbooking situation.
The petition, which had been signed by nearly 2,000 people as of Monday afternoon, cited concerns with the plan to give RAs a roommate this year and with university leaders’ lack of communication with RAs about what they can expect this fall.
“RA’s are expected to represent with distinction the University of Kentucky at all times, on and off campus, only receiving a reprieve in the sanctuary of our own rooms,” the petition said.
“An individual room also provides RA’s with a space to have private conversations with residents. These conversations are sometimes extremely personal and necessary for the safety and well being of our students,” the petition also said. “We deserve to be provided the accommodations we require to best serve our residents. And our residents deserve the accommodations they paid a significant amount of money for.”
UK isn’t the only college that is grappling with housing troubles this year. NPR recently reported that Virginia Tech had enrolled too many freshmen, with nearly 8,000 acceptances instead of the school’s anticipated class size of 6,600 students.
In response, Virginia Tech has started working on turning study lounges into dorm rooms, in addition to other steps it’s taking to manage the situation.
UK has added 6,850 beds across 14 residence halls over the last five years, according to Blanton, and certain areas in those buildings were designed so they could be converted into housing space if necessary. And this year, it is.
Students are being assigned to both multipurpose and RA rooms that have been converted to help house more students, according to the university’s website. The dorms affected by the housing crunch include Blazer Hall, Chellgren Hall, Haggin Hall, Holmes Hall, Jewell Hall, Lewis Hall and Woodland Glen II, III, IV and V.
Blanton offered assurances that these converted dorm rooms will include the same amenities the standard rooms do, including restrooms with showers.
“Indeed, we have experienced capacity issues in the past — both 2014 and 2015. We managed then without any significant issues or impact for students,” he said in an email Monday. “Our goal and expectation is to do so again as students and their success are our first priority.”
Every eligible student who completed a housing application will get a room assignment before the fall semester starts, according to UK, and students who’ve already gotten theirs won’t be moved.
“If a student’s got an assignment, we’re going to honor that,” Blanton said.
UK won’t assign students to three-person converted rooms, so they shouldn’t have more than one roommate, he also said via email. The school expects these assignments to be temporary and will reassign people to regular rooms as they become available.
Students assigned to a converted dorm room are being offered a lower housing rate of $3,750 per semester, which is $798 cheaper each semester than the $4,548 cost of renting a two-bedroom suite on campus, according to UK. For the fall semester, they’ll also get $200 in “flex” money for their campus dining accounts and will be able to use their dorm’s laundry facilities for free.
A private company manages various residence hall buildings on campus, but Blanton said UK is taking the lead on handling the current space limitation issue.
Blanton said the university will reach out to students and their families directly to discuss a more specific housing plan. In the meantime, people can call the campus housing office at 859-257-1866 and can learn more at www.uky.edu/housing/capacity-faqs.
Morgan Watkins: 502-582-4502; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @morganwatkins26. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/morganw.
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