No vacancy? State universities running out of living space

Across the state and region, university housing departments are coping with increased demand, which is putting a strain on student housing officials who are trying to find students a place to live.

At Kansas University, however, the situation is a bit better.

Though KU’s scholarship halls are full, and only a few spots are left at Jayhawker Towers apartments, overall the school is at 93 percent capacity, which is about the same as last year.

KU’s student housing likely isn’t as crowded as others in the state partially because it lost some ability to retain existing students after Jayhawker Tower D was closed last year for renovations, said Todd Cohen, university spokesman. The building will be open again this fall.

Travel west on Interstate 70, however, and the student housing situation gets bleaker. At Kansas State University, school officials have had to put up students in a nearby hotel until space becomes available in residence halls.

More than 300 other students are living in “overflow” areas, which include resident assistants getting roommates and students moving into study areas.

Derek Jackson, associate director of housing at Kansas State, attributed the popularity partially to a down economy. In addition to room and board being covered, meal plans are provided for one lump sum, removing some unpredictability of paying monthly rent.

“It’s maybe a sign of the times for people,” Jackson said. “We’re able to house people with a very consistent cost.”

The University of Missouri-Columbia, seeing increases in enrollment and demand for housing, had to limit the number of contracts it offered to returning students so it could accommodate incoming freshmen, who are required to live on campus.

At Washburn University in Topeka, students filled up the available housing by July 15, said Mindy Rendon, the university’s director of residential housing. A wait list began after that, she said.

She does anticipate that some space will become available as fraternities and sororities recruit students to live in greek housing.

Admissions counselors have been focusing on the benefits of university housing when talking to students, and they’ve responded, Rendon said.

She, too, thought the economy played a role.

“You have your house, you have your meal plan,” she said. “And you don’t need a car to get to class.”