West Virginia University officials see it as a good problem to havefinding additional housing for a growing student population.
More than 24,500 students are expected at WVU for the fall semester, an increase of more than a thousand students from last years record enrollment of 23,492, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said Wednesday (Aug. 13) during a news briefing at the Universitys newest residence hall, Fieldcrest. Of that number, he added, approximately 4,300 will be freshmenan increase of over 300 students from last years 3,978 record entering class.
While these figures will be clearer in October, we are quite certain that WVU will set new records in both our total enrollment as well as first-time freshmen,Hardesty said.I attribute these increases to our excellent faculty; WVU s nearly 200 outstanding academic programs, including relatively new degree programs in forensics and biometrics; WVU s reasonable tuition; the states PROMISE Scholarship; additional scholarship assistance from the Foundation and Alumni Association that are both need- and merit-based; the quality of our student life initiatives and Parents Club activities; and our new facilities and competitive athletic programs.
Junior Amanda Francis of Moundsville settles in to her room at the new Fieldcrest student residence hall on Van Voorhis Road. To accommodate a record-setting fall enrollment of more than 24,500 students, WVU officials lease-purchased Fieldcrest earlier this year. The state-of-the-art facility will provide an additional 212 beds. Each room has its own bathroom and ethernet connections.
The president said other states that are graduating more students than can be educated at home are also contributing to the increases, as well as the quality of life in Morgantownrated a top small city.
Hardesty said the University has managed to attract these record numbers at a time when high school enrollments in the state are decliningand despite substantial state budget cuts and ever increasing unfunded mandates.
We have done all this while funds raised by cutting our budget have been used to enhance or stabilize the budgets of other agencies,Hardesty noted.Our records have been accomplished while state policy has systematically diverted funds from this campus to other campuses in the statea policy if left in place will threaten the quality and growth of our institution.
On the housing front, officials said nearly 5,142 students will be living in campus-run residence halls this fall, including 3,824 freshmen and more than 1,000 returning and transfer students (with less than 29 credit hours), plus several hundred professional staff who live on the premises (such as resident assistants and directors).
To accommodate the 141 percent occupancy rate, the University acquired Fieldcrest in a lease-purchase arrangement and entered into three-year lease agreements with several private property owners. Nine existing campus residence halls accommodate about 3,700 studentswell short of the need.
I would much rather be looking for accommodations for more students than the opposite,said Amir Mohammadi, associate vice president for Student Affairs.We have been working since last spring to identify extended housing and I think we have some outstanding facilities awaiting our students.
The newest residence hall, Fieldcrest, is a former nursing home that has been renovated to provide an additional 212 beds. Its entrance is on Van Voorhis Road, near the new Health Sciences Center entrance. Mostly freshmen will reside there.
This is a state-of-the-art facility,Mohammadi said.Each room has its own bathroom and ethernet connections. Freshmen will definitely enjoy living there.
The lease agreements are with:
- Sterling University Ridge Apartments, also on Van Voorhis Road near the Evansdale Campus, four buildings, 249 beds, for mostly upperclassmen and transfer students
- Pierpont Apartments on Oakland Street near the Health Sciences Campus, five floors, 314 beds; mostly freshmen
- Summit Suites Apartments on Grant Avenue near the Downtown Campus, 565 beds for mostly freshmen
- Spruce House, the former Kappa Delta sorority house on the Downtown Campus, which provides an additional 37 beds for freshman women
The facilities leased by the University are provided with the full array of programming and academic support available at University-owned housing, including a Resident Faculty Leader assigned to each.
Dining Services has also undergone changes, Mohammadi said, offering lower-calorie and more nutritious meals, including sushi, ethnic menus, an omelet bar and deli. The dining halls will also operate with more flexible scheduling so that students may eat no matter when they have classesrather than at set breakfast, lunch and dinner times.
This goes hand in hand with a new Nutrition and Wellness Task Force established recently by President Hardesty and headed by Vice President Ken Gray that is working to establish a campus environment that enhances lifelong wellness. More information on that effort will be announced by the spring semester.
Mohammadi said a market and feasibility study is also under way to address future, more permanent student housing needs. WVU has contracted with American Campus Community and the consulting firm, Anderson Stickler, to assist with this effort being led by Vice President Scott Kelley.
In the meantime, students and parents with questions about fall housing arrangements can call 304-293-4491 or 293-4372 ext. 15750.
Gray announced establishment of a Student Accounts Call Center that will be in operation to answer questions about housing and tuition bills, payment methods and refund checks. Students and parents can call 304-293-4006 through mid-September.
Student Services Days are also scheduled Friday, Saturday and Monday (Aug. 15, 16&18) in the Mountainlair Ballrooms to assist students in finalizing their schedule and financial aid arrangements, he said. In addition, a Help Center has been established in Elizabeth Moore Hall from Friday, Aug. 15, through Friday, Aug. 22, to assist students with a variety of issuesfrom housing to financial aid.
Move-in day at the residence halls is Friday, Aug. 15, according to Dean of Students David Stewart, with activities for freshmenknown as the JumpStart Academyrunning through Sunday with a picnic, Student Organization Fair, New Student Convocation, Comedy Club and more planned.
The Parents Club Helpline is still in operation as well, officials said, with the toll-free number of 1-800-WVU-0096. A parent advocate averages some 3,500 calls per year from families with questions or concerns.
Russ Dean, associate vice president for academic affairs, said some 3,700 seats in classes have been added to accommodate the influx of students and their interest in popular general education courses such as psychology, anthropology, communication studies, art, theater and sociology.
Increasing demand in majors such as engineering, forensic and investigative science and pharmacy have also necessitated a need to add classes in chemistry, math and biology.
Dean said other popular majors include journalism and business.
I am happy to report that as of today, all incoming students who have registered for summer or fall orientation have complete schedules,he said.Some will be taking classes at times that are less than perfectlike 8 a.m. or in the eveningbut they will have complete schedules where all the courses will count toward their major.
The University will also be working to increase its retention rate during the coming year.
While the current rate of 78-80 percent is actually above average for institutions with student profiles similar to our own, we want to do better,Dean said.
Some of those initiatives will include: attendance alerts to resident faculty leaders regarding students not attending class; the addition of career development classes for general studies students; further development of business-oriented degrees; and training for front line staff to recognize and help students who are experiencing difficulties.