News Ticker

Enrollment distribution changes residence halls

By Chelsea Tyler

EMPTY: The basement floor of Hardy Hall is unoccupied this year. (Photo by Chelsea Tyler)

EMPTY: The basement floor of Hardy Hall is unoccupied this year. (Photo by Chelsea Tyler)

For the 2015-2016 academic school year, the university enrolled 253 new students.

This year, enrollment tallies up to 245 new students, including transfer and re-admitted students.

The difference in enrollment from last year compared to this year is eight students.

Despite the small decrease in students, Hardy basement and short wing of Wright Hall are unoccupied, giving the impression that the university’s numbers are lower this year than in the past.

“It’s just a shift of where people are living,” Susanne Watson, assistant director of admissions, said.

Watson said she thinks what previous tour guides have said about each residence hall “might have influenced” the redistribution of students in residence halls for this year.

“Two years ago, tour guides had no training on what to say about res life,” Watson said. “They might have talked about the stereotypes of each hall.”

Residence life and the admissions staff asked tour guides to stop discussing these stereotypes with prospective students, and instead encouraged them to focus on discussing the benefits of each hall.

“We had our students talk about the accommodations of each hall,” Watson said. “Like in Roush, they could mention that it’s suite-style and has a lot of storage. For Livingston, they could say it’s the newest hall.”

By June registration, Watson said Baker/Roush was almost full, and that she’s “never seen” the two residence halls fill up “so quickly.”

Mallory Harrigan, resident director of Baker and Roush Halls, said that while Baker/Roush is “full,” it “isn’t at capacity.”

There are 195 residents combined in Baker/Roush this year.

In 2014, Roush Hall had 97 residents. Last year, it had 100.

This year, Roush tallies to 116 residents. Maximum capacity is 132 residents.

Harrigan said Baker/Roush, on a functional level, has the most capacity of the residence halls, which means it has the potential to be the fullest — or emptiest — hall.

“People may come in because of friends that are moving over,” she said. “It’s really hard to predict.”

She said having early registration on campus in April helps students get a better feel for the Baker/Roush community.

“Staying here and experiencing community is more compelling than walking through the building at 3 p.m. on a Monday,” Harrigan said.

Hardy Hall has 69 total occupants this year — 15 of those are new students, and two are transfers. The maximum occupancy is 125.

When Jesse Brown, associate dean of student development, showed Danielle Shafer the floor plan for Hardy this year, she was “discouraged.”

“I feared what [the small numbers] would communicate to new students, “ Shafer, resident director of Hardy Hall, said. “Would they think Hardy is a hall where nobody wants to live?”

Shafer said the decision to distribute students throughout the building, resulting in the closing of the basement floor, was made to improve the overall atmosphere of the hall.

She said this was done to allow new students the chance to be on the same floor with other new students, building relationships and establishing connections.

Although the decision to close the basement floor was not easy, and Shafer said she had to “disappoint people,” she said she doesn’t think it will harm Hardy Hall.

“Those facilities are more open now,” Shafer said. “The lounge space will be shared better.”

While there has been a shift in the distribution of students living in residence halls, Shafer said she thinks the stigma around residence halls could be changing.

“Maybe some of those [changing] stereotypes are ‘living in Roush doesn’t mean you’re quiet,’’ Shafer said, “or ‘living in Hardy doesn’t mean you’re outgoing.’”

Harrigan said she thinks stereotypes get too much attention, and can be “damaging.”

“It’s very important to not spread those stereotypes,” she said.

Watson said the admissions team is coming up with different recruiting strategies, such as different types of visit days, new marketing techniques and working on how information is sent out to prospective students — when they receive information and what specifically they receive.

She said enrollment should not worry students.

“We are down a little in numbers, but not enough for students to be concerned,” she said.

Shafer said she is “proud” of her RAs for handling the shift in distribution and has a theme for her outlook on the year.

“My theme is hope,” she said. “…maintaining hope that God will still move, even though we’re discouraged.”

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