Student housing an issue this year at UMass

  • In this Oct. 21, 2016, photo, students pass the Old Chapel on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. AP FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2018 11:47:03 PM

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts might be welcoming one of the largest freshman classes it has seen in years, but a lack of on-campus housing has forced the university to convert lounges in many freshman dormitories to four-person rooms.

The entering class of 2022 has a total of 5,050 new students, an increase of about 7 percent from last year’s entering population of 4,700 students. In addition to converting lounges, some larger double rooms have also been converted into economy triple occupancy rooms.

Students who live in these expanded housing assignments are billed at a reduced rate, since they are living in non-traditional rooms and with multiple students. Compared to the $3,534-per-semester price tag a student pays on a standard, two-person room, the per-student cost for a quad comes in at about $3,019 a semester, while a triple is $2,599.

“The expanded living assignments were appealing to some students because of the cost savings and because the lounges are actually quite spacious,” said UMass spokeswoman Mary Dettloff. “We had a model set up during orientation for students to look at to see how they were set up and many students were surprised.”

Some entering freshmen requested to be placed in these expanded rooms during room selection. Expanded housing is available in the Northeast, Southwest, Orchard Hill, Central and Commonwealth Honors College residential areas. Slightly fewer than half of all of the expanded housing assignments were by request, Dettloff said.

“There was some demand for these spaces,” she said.

Students that are placed in expanded housing assignments are likely to be in these rooms for the rest of the academic year. But students in quads or triples have priority if any vacancies in standard rooms on campus open up throughout the year.

The converted rooms come equipped with the same features for students as standard singles or doubles, such as beds, desks, shelf space, dressers and windows — except with less space. The university estimates that, compared to standard shared rooms, there is 15 percent less floor space for a quad and 25 percent less space in an economy triple.

This is not the first time that the university has dealt with housing woes. In 2012, overcrowding in on-campus housing forced the university to convert lounges in some dorms to quads, according to Dettloff.

The university, however, is not concerned that overcrowding is an ongoing problem.

“It’s not normal, but we’re not seeing a trend with expanded classing coming in,” Dettloff said. “It happens on a periodic basis.”

Some students at UMass are trying to make the best of their new living situations. For Gabriella Lalli Martins, 20, a freshman living in Gorman Hall studying linguistics and computer science, the discounted rate was an incentive to sign up for a quad.

“It’s already so expensive, being an international student and all, so I just took the chance that I had to make it a little less,” said Martins, who is from Brazil.

So far, Martins said that overall the experience of living in a quad has gone better than she had expected, but the reduced space can present itself as inconvenient at times.

“I spend most of my time outside the dorm, just in the lounge or in the library or just doing other stuff,” Martins said. “People come in and say, “Oh, it’s big,’ but once you divide the space it’s actually not. I guess my biggest struggle is with the carpet floors. It’s hard to clean up, it has that smell, (and) when it’s hot, it’s so hot. It’s not very nice.”

Siddharth Preetham, 18, and his twin brother, Ananth Preetham, are freshman studying computer science who live in Gorman Hall in a quad together with two other roommates. They didn’t choose to live in a quad, but they say the experience is going well so far.

“Maybe one negative is that you don’t get as much privacy as you would get in a double room,” Siddharth Preetham said. “We also had to loft and bunk our beds to get some more space.”

The students also said despite living in a much larger room, they are still limited by housing rules to having only 10 people in their room at a time.

“Our room is triple the size of a normal room, but still we can only have 10 people in it at once,” Ananth Preetham said. “It seems unfair.”

Students living in expanded housing who were interviewed by the Gazette see the living situation as just something they will have to learn to live with.

“Overall, it’s less money to live in the quads. I see it as a positive experience,” Ananth Preetham said.

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