Housing is Feeling the Squeeze

Something has to change in ResLife

By Samuel Manas

Opinions Editor

samanas1@umbc.edu

Summary: UMBC students are now living in “on-campus” housing — in Baltimore City. More housing is coming, but it may not be enough. UMBC needs to act now to address the housing squeeze here.

     Residential Life is in a bind. UMBC has become what The Baltimore Sun calls a “true gem,” and that means increased attention — and with that, increased enrollment. The 2013 freshman class totaled 1,657, 75% of whom lived on campus. With these numbers growing every year, housing has started to burst at its seams with students.

Overflow housing doesn’t seem to have been enough, either. UMBC has started to house people in the city at University of Maryland, Baltimore. Students were asked to volunteer. 21 students did including a residential assistant — but Trisha Welsh, director of Student Affairs Administrative and Business Services, admits that getting this extra housing was necessary for UMBC.

UMBC and UMB benefitted from this agreement — one school needed more space, and the other had the space. The students who volunteered won: they got to live in an environment where they could do things in the city at a whim for the price of a few hours of each day for their commute to the UMBC campus.

But this was an agreement of convenience, and at some point ResLife is going to have to address the growth in enrollment that wasn’t necessarily in their projections. That means eliminating their guarantees of housing for upperclassmen students, building more residential spaces or an even more creative solution.

“I would love it if in a few more years there would be more housing,” said Welsh, and it seems she’ll get her wish. The 2009 UMBC Facilities Master Plan Update dictates what developments on campus are scheduled from now until 2019, and it includes expansions of Walker Apartments and Chesapeake Hall. Unfortunately, those expansions add only 462 new beds. Perhaps it should be reevaluated in light of this development.

Another option, however, would be to become more selective. The Master Plan mentions that the school’s population is expected to grow to 14,210 students by 2019, and that most of that growth would occur in the first five years. Indeed, halfway into the master plan’s duration, we are near that number. The school could slow that growth more, however, by lowering its 61% acceptance rate.

More situations like these students living “on-campus” in Baltimore City could occur, and not everybody is going to volunteer. Whether it means moving up the construction dates of the expansions, changing housing policy, or being more selective in admissions, the school needs to address the strain on housing. If it doesn’t, ResLife will find itself stretched even thinner.