As students walk around campus this fall they may notice themselves rubbing elbows with a few more students than last year. K-State has seen a noticeable increase in students over the past couple of years which is now placing a strain on the university’s resources, specifically housing.
As a result, K-State has started offering $1,000 to returning students with dormitory contracts who agree to find alternative housing. The university will also return the deposit and waive the fee for breaking the contract. This is the first year any such incentive has been offered.
Derek Jackson, director of the department of Housing and Dining Services, said about 400 students are expected to live in overflow housing this year. Overflow housing is traditionally defined as roommates for resident assistants, students living in study rooms and about 280 students living in temporary housing in the Jardine Apartment complex known as the “Living Community.”
Jardine has recently added new buildings and these have mainly been used to house students looking for apartments, but K-State has also chosen to remodel older buildings and this year a couple of these will contain mostly students in temporary housing. Stephanie Bannister, associate director of Housing and Dining Services, said building L, the old childcare center, and building F will contain the overflow students.
“Building L, where Jardine had been located ‘til new Jardine, we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it, we were considering to tear it down, but we went in and created suite style housing.”
Vice President for Student Life Pat Bosco, said K-State is expecting a record enrollment for this fall and the increased demands on Housing and Dining Services has caused K-State to reevaluate housing policies and priorities.
“In anticipation of this enrollment we added what we thought were enough beds both in Jardine and the residence halls complexes. We have blown past any reasonable estimation,” Bosco said. “We established a May 15 deadline for returning students to let us know if they were living with us in the fall. In the past that deadline was soft, but this year we made it clear to them that they would be put on a waiting list behind new students that turn in their contracts this summer.”
As a result, K-State has had to get creative while finding housing for the new students.
“Current students were always our first priority till May 15, then it switched to new students and, if we have any room, we will go back to current students,” Bosco said.
K-State has paid dozens of returning students to not live in the dorms and the offer is still open. Some students have sought to take advantage of this non-traditional opportunity.
Cody Rietcheck, sophomore in chemical engineering, said an email received from K-State on June 21 prompted a search for new living arrangements with a friend.
“Well, last year we had looked into moving out of the dorms and we just decided to stay because we didn’t get the process going, but when me and my buddy heard about the offer we thought a thousand dollars is a thousand dollars, so we looked and found a cheap apartment.”
In order to ease the housing problem, Housing and Dining Services has also begun utilizing the greek community. Bosco said greek houses are being given a bounty of $200 for each new initiate who cancels a Housing and Dining Services contract to move into the chapter house. In addition, the student’s deposit will be returned and penalties to get out of the contract will be waived. Only a few fraternities have taken advantage of the offer so far, but the offer also applies to sororities in case there is extra room in their organized living.
Greeks are helping to alleviate the crisis, but they are also feeling the strain from the increasing population. Amanda Brown, associate director of Greek Affairs, said sorority fall recruitment is seeing a significant increase in registered girls.
“Right now we are 103 registrants ahead of where we were last year,” Brown said.
Non-greek living areas are also doing their part to help house the wave of new students. Smurthwaite Scholarship House has completely filled the house with new women. Last year, Smurthwaite housed about 15 students who were not members of the house as a temporary living situation. All of the temporary tenants were moved into the dorms by Thanksgiving.
This housing pressure is not a new problem. Last year, around 70 students were temporarily housed in the Clarion Hotel for about two weeks. In fact, Jackson indicated housing solutions that used to be seen as temporary, like roommates for RAs, have been happening for so long, eight or nine years, that they are now seen as permanent housing.
K-State’s remodeling of old buildings has been designed around increasing the number of residents and this mission has been accommodated by adding extra floors and three bedroom rooms to what used to be primarily two bedroom apartments. As late as the State of the University address last semester, university officials insisted that K-State’s housing needs could be met without adding new dormitories, largely because many of the students in temporary housing were relocated by January. Bosco indicated K-State was considering the possibility of new dorms.
“We are opening up three new buildings next year and we are beginning plans to discuss a new residence hall,” Bosco said. “The overall housing strategic plan was developed 10 years ago with the best information we had and we want to make sure we are responding to the president’s 2025 plan and the changing life on campus. It’s not static, it’s dynamic.”
In the rush to accommodate extra students last year, K-State also had to speed up the hiring of resident assistants. As reported by Sam Diederich in the Collegian on March 9, an RA was rejected in the traditional interviews twice, but then was later placed in the temporary housing and, ultimately, traditional housing in the rush to find enough assistants. This RA was later fired for the use of prostitutes. Several women had registered complaints against him, but no action was taken until his illicit activities were discovered in a prostitution sting performed by the Riley County Police Department.
As a result, changes have been made in the hiring process. Bannister said this year Housing and Dining hired RAs specifically for the Living Community during the traditional hiring period.
“We planned intentionally to house students in the living community last year,” Bannister said. “And when we went through the resident assistant hiring this spring, it was part of our regular RA hiring and recruitment.”