Freshman housing woes may finally see a solution

Freshman housing may see alterations in near future



Increased enrollment at Augustana brought fresh faces to campus, but room for more is limited.

Freshman housing in Bergsaker Hall and Solberg Hall is nearly at capacity—only one male spot is available.

Dean of Students Jim Bies said: “Once we get up to 450, 460 [first-year] students, we will have really stressed Bergsaker and Solberg to comfortably provide housing to the entire first-year class.”

While increased enrollment is “a really good problem to have,” according to director of Campus Life Corey Kopp, more students means less space. With Horizons 2019, Augustana’s strategic plan, aiming to increase freshman enrollment to 500, Kopp said: “The question is where do we house the extra 50 students?”

The number of students also puts strain on various facilities, especially laundry.

“The laundry room is almost always busy,” freshman Destiny Pinder-Buckley said. “Sometimes you have to check several times for hours before a washer opens up.”

Freshman Sara Birhe had no issues with the number of students currently living in the dorms but she said that the difference in resources between the dorms is a concern.

“The problem that I have is with the different amenities that are provided hall to hall and even in different buildings,” Birhe said. “Each student is charged the same amount for housing, but there are some that get better facilities.”

“The people on House Hunters would not approve of the kitchens because they are outdated,” Pinder-Buckley said.

jim-biesThe concern over freshman housing has raised the question of whether it might be necessary to renovate or rebuild Bergsaker and Solberg to accommodate more students. While Bies said that no plans are set currently, “Expectations for on-campus living are very different than twenty years ago.”

“I would hope that, sometime in the next year, we have an honest discussion about renovating those halls,” Kopp said. “But that’s not on anyone’s radar.”

Other options were considered by the Board of Trustees during a September meeting.

A report from the Center for Campus Life said “We expect to consider proposals for additional co-educational housing as this model has proven to be beneficial in easing occupancy management concerns.”

There are no current plans to implement any co-educational housing in the freshman dorms, both due to faculty and student concerns and the structure of Bergsaker and Solberg.

“Because we house on the gender binary, one side for men and one side for women, we don’t have—and the buildings aren’t set up for—anything else,” Kopp said.

Bies also noted that co-ed floors would need to be approved by faculty and students.

“I myself am on an all girls floor and find it more comfortable and convenient than those who live on mixed floors,” Birhe said. “The change from high school to college is already extreme. Adding to it would only exaggerate the stress on students.”

The Board of Trustee’s report also raised the possibility of converting a few floors in Granskou Hall or Stavig Hall into first-year housing, with some discussion of eliminating separate first-year housing altogether. Bies said that while this is an option, nothing would be implemented without consulting students.

“Students really need to be a part of the process,” Bies said.

All of these proposals are currently in the discussion stage, however, and no changes are confirmed.

“It’s not a today problem, it’s a this time next fall problem,” Kopp said. “What we want to do, Jim and I, is start the conversation about what we do if enrollment continues to grow.”

“We’re still too early in the process to look at first-year-student growth outgrowing the facilities, but I would rather be prepared,” Bies said. “If we don’t go through a review, we aren’t doing a good job of planning for the future.”

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