As the midpoint in the spring semester approaches, the opportunity to rid oneself of the need for shower shoes is quickly coming for students. For those who wish to live on campus, the options have never been so varied. With study halls for the GPA-conscious, quads for rowdy upperclassmen to whom the term “dry floor” means your hallmates made it to the bathroom before puking, and everything in between, the possibilities for on campus living have never been more plentiful. Lucky for us, UB offers the most housing choices of any SUNY school. All that convenience and those glamorous options, however, come at a cost, one some students are deciding is too high for the privilege to live on campus.
Too Many People, Too Little Room
Few things are less encouraging to an incoming freshman than arriving on campus and being placed in an overcapacity room. With college enrollment nationwide on the increase, schools across the country are struggling to accommodate the needs of more students in less space.
Many urban institutions, including the University of Southern California, have been solving the problem by renting out spaces in hotels for students who can’t be housed in residence halls. “My reward for turning in my housing forms late was that I got put in the hotel,” one junior at USC remarked. According to the Buffalo News, Canisius College has housed overcapacity students in the Adams Mark hotel while Daemen College put students in the Marriott Residence Inn. After UB officials inquired about renting space for overcapacity students in the fall of 2002, the University Inn on North Forest Road said they weren’t interested in renting but would consider selling the hotel. UB’s recent offer, however, was declined.
An on-campus housing crunch is expected this year, since this is the first year since 1998 that no new residences will be opening to students. Joe Krakowiak, Director of University Residence Halls, said, “While there is an expected tuition hike, the last time tuition went up, the decrease in applications for the residence halls was negligible. More and more people are going to college, and many of them are choosing to live on campus.”
Increasing Rates, Same Services
Many of those living in the on-campus apartments were disappointed to learn about an increase in rates for the 2003-2004 lease period. But there are several reasons behind the increase. “No matter what, it’s more expensive to live in 2003 than in 2002,” Krakowiak said before explaining the mortgage process for the apartments. “How much did South Lake cost when it was built? $29 million. How much did Hadley cost? $21 million. Divide the mortgage against 620 people for $21 million over 30 years and divide 540 people paying the mortgage at the other place. If it costs more at the beginning, it has to cost more throughout the year,” he said. Also, each of the apartment complexes has a different mortgage with different plans, meaning that some apartment rates will increase at different times.
In addition to issues dealing with the mortgage, energy costs have increased since the last time residents signed contracts. According to an e-mail from Krakowiak’s assistant, Debbie Frantz, natural gas prices are going up 60 percent for the upcoming year and electricity is going up 5 percent. Those who live off campus, however, will not see such an increase because the University buys utilities at commercial rates. It is because of the terms of these commercial rates that the University Apartments can’t bill students separately for utilities. “Commercial rates for energy are much lower than ones you’ll see off campus, but because of the rates we pay, we can’t resell it,” Krakowiak said. “Suppose it’s 80 degrees in your apartment. We can’t charge you any more because the law says, if you want that low rate, you can’t change it and resell it to somebody.” Separate utility bills therefore are “absolutely against the law.”
Kicked out of Creekside?
The new on campus apartments—Flint, Hadley, and South Lake Villages—have been the first choice residence for upperclassmen since Hadley first opened. The building of new apartment complexes has not kept up with demand, however, leading to several disgruntled responses from students whose applications for space in the apartments were denied. With the opening of the graduate complex Creekside Apartments on Skinnersville Road, about forty undergraduates rejected from Flint, Hadley, and South Lake were offered the opportunity to move into Creekside for the 2002-2003 academic year.
When applications for fall 2003 admission into UB’s MBA program and Law School increased, graduate student applications for on campus living increased as well. URH asked undergrads in Creekside if they would have trouble finding alternate living arrangements for the next school year. A minority responded that yes, they would, while most responded saying that they wouldn’t. When students learned that they were going to be asked to leave Creekside, however, the number of those concerned about finding new housing arrangements increased to about half of the undergraduates living there.
Krakowiak explained that all of the different issues with the undergraduates moving out of Creekside have been resolved, and that URH has helped them locate new living arrangements. “Not only have we helped them find housing, we’re giving them boxes and getting a moving van so no one feels neglected,” he said.
What About South Campus?
Despite all of the attention that’s been given to increasing apartments on the North Campus, URH has not forgotten South Campus. “We’re spending $4.6 million this summer on Goodyear, next summer, we’re spending $3 million more on Goodyear,” Krakowiak said, explaining that similar complaints were made about ten years ago when the residence halls on South Campus were the first to receive cable television. “If you were in my office ten years ago, you would say to me, ‘Joe, why does the south campus have the first cable television distribution system and the first data system?’ Why? Because we can’t do everything at once. North Campus has the space for the construction so that’s why the construction occurred here. We’re not forgetting about South Campus. We’ll be spending tens of millions of dollars to improve South Campus within the next six or seven years,” he added. Additionally, Krakowiak argued that when all students in the residence halls were surveyed on their satisfaction with their living situations, Goodyear was the residence hall that had the highest satisfaction levels of any hall on North and South campuses.
Several changes are planned for South Campus this summer, including increasing the amount of power the building can use and redoing the piping so students can hop into a hot shower without having to wait for it to heat up. As Tom Tiberi, Associate Director for Residential Operations, explained, “infrastructure of the hot water is being replaced, the heating system is being replaced. Nothing aesthetic, students aren’t going to see a difference, but when they turn the water on, it’s going to get a lot hotter a lot quicker.”
“We’re putting more electrical power into South Campus. One of the problems with the buildings is that there isn’t enough power for all of the appliances the students bring,” Krakowiak said.
Tiberi added, “You have to understand that when the building was built, students didn’t have personal computers and stereo systems.”
In the interests of making more housing to fit the needs of today’s residents, Krakowiak explained his long-term plans for South Campus, starting with renovations in Goodyear Hall. “In the summer of 2004, the top three floors of Goodyear will be converted into two person apartments. Depending on demand, the next summer, we would change three more floors. It’s going to depend on demand, rather than a plan that just takes the whole building and remodels it.” When asked about McDonald, Pritchard, and Schoellkopf, Krakowiak said, “Our long-term plan is to retire those buildings. We are hiring a master plan consultant in order to come up with what should be done and when it should be done based on the aging in our buildings.”
Winning the URH Lottery
One of the things that Krakowiak and Tiberi are planning on improving is the way in which students pick their rooms in the residence halls. Currently, students are assigned a lottery number based on how many credits they’ve completed, the amount of semesters they’ve spent in the residence halls, and participation in the UB community. With that number, students are assigned a time to go pick out their room. As with everything at UB, this process is going to become completely computerized in the near future. Last year, students were able to pick out single rooms online. By this time next year, URH hopes to have the entire room selection process online so students no longer have to do any waiting in line and fighting to get to the front.
The Lee Road Project?
One of the biggest development plans in recent University history, the Lee Road project would include the building of residence spaces for thousands more students in apartments lining the grounds between Ellicott and the Student Union. Krakowiak explained that President Greiner is working to secure some of the funding to get the project off the ground. With the completion of the environmental impact study, the Lee Road project is the likely “next big thing” for students at UB.
Moving On Out
While both Tiberi and Krakowiak stand by their products, arguing that the housing options at UB are among the best around, they recognize the downfalls. “We know we’re not the cheapest option, but we still think it’s the best,” Tiberi said.