Written by: Matthew Orquia
Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a two-part series.
Since 2020, Southern Adventist University’s enrollment has increased, and the university has seen two of its largest freshman classes in institutional history. That has made the search for on-campus housing increasingly difficult for students, according to Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development.
Under increasing pressure to make room for each student this semester, the university made some policy changes.
Southern tries to keep the residence halls below 100% capacity to allow students to request to change their housing situation if needed, but that has not been possible this semester, Negrón said.
“We are filling up Talge and Thatcher because freshmen and sophomores will always live in Talge and Thatcher,” Negrón said. “[Capacity] is certainly very close to 100%, which is not an ideal number.”
To try and create more housing space, Southern asked students who were scheduled to live in the residence halls this semester but have parents who work for Southern and live locally, to live at home for the semester, according to Negrón. Usually children of Southern faculty receive a 70% subsidy on tuition if they live in the residence halls but only a 35% subsidy if they live at home. However, this semester, Southern offered these students a 70% subsidy to live at home, something that has not been done for over twenty years.
“In order for us to be able to accommodate all the [housing] requests we get, we have been trying to artificially make more room in the residence halls,” Negrón said.
Hannah Boyd, sophomore nursing major, whose father works for Southern, was emailed by Student Development in July asking if she would consider living at home while maintaining her 70% subsidy, according to Boyd. She decided to live at home this semester and accept the subsidy but plans on moving back into the dorm next semester if the option is available.
“While this was a difficult decision, it was probably for the best considering the number of students Southern has this semester,” Boyd wrote in an email to the Accent. “However, it was frustrating since I had already figured out my room and had already planned it out with my roommate. It was disappointing to leave her hanging the way I did, and she had to go on the hunt for a new roommate.”
According to Boyd, she now drives to school, which has been challenging due to traffic by Collegedale Academy and the parking situation on campus. She wrote that living at home has made it more difficult to meet people and spend time with friends after class.
Additionally, students in Southern’s Spalding Cove apartments were asked to add a fourth person to their apartments. In recent years, Spalding Cove apartments have held three people, according to Negrón.
“We’ve always kept the number of people in the apartments smaller than what an apartment can actually hold, not because the apartments can’t hold them, but because we don’t have enough parking over there,” Negrón said.
While all students were able to find housing this semester, according to Negrón, some were moved into university-owned housing on College Drive East. The houses were scheduled to be destroyed for Collegedale Academy’s new elementary school.
“We stopped the destruction of those houses and put older students who like to live on campus in those houses,” Negrón said.
According to Negrón, juniors and seniors are the ones most affected by the housing shortage because they may have less options available to them this semester.
“We have juniors and seniors who like to live on campus. … They are the ones who are getting squeezed because we can always fit freshmen and sophomores in Talge and Thatcher,” Negrón said.
Southern is already planning additional housing for next year, as leadership expects the Fall 2024 semester to be another difficult time for housing.
“Fall ’24 is our biggest concern,” Negrón said. “This year, I would say we were concerned, but we were able to handle the demand. Next year, all things being equal, we will have a problem.”
Last semester, Southern purchased apartments in Laumere Court. The university plans on building four more Southern Village buildings to be ready for next fall, according to Negrón. Administration is trying to focus on building flexible housing options that can still be used even if enrollment drops in the future.
“What we’re talking about is making sure that when we build, we build the type of housing that is flexible,” Negrón said. “That’s why we probably won’t ever build a dorm.”
Southern is expecting its recent growth to continue, according to Negrón.
“Adventism is growing by leaps and bounds in the Southern Union. … As a result, we’ve got a lot more academy students,” Negrón said. “ … We expect the growth because we can see it in our academies.”