Colleges face a housing squeeze

Like many fellow N.C. colleges this year, UNC Charlotte is experiencing a housing crunch due in part to the fast growth of its student body.

The north Charlotte campus is expecting 3,060 freshman and 2,044 transfer students, an increase of 160 students from last year. Housing officials at UNCC are still trying to find beds for 280 students, and classes begin Aug. 25.

Incoming freshmen are only part of the problem. More upperclassmen are choosing to stay on campus, closer to dining halls and classes. At UNCC, 400 more returning students are applying for on-campus housing over last year.

“The rise in gas prices may be a factor in the students wanting to stay closer to campus, but I suspect that the desire for safety might also be playing a part,” said Jacklyn Simpson, associate vice chancellor and director of housing at UNCC.

Several construction projects are under way to ease the situation, but none can provide relief for the current crunch. A new residence hall with 400 beds will not be ready for use until fall of 2011.

“Anywhere from 130 to 150 students will be placed in overflow housing, which is temporary housing in study rooms,” Simpson said. “In addition to that, we have a wait list, which is something we haven't seen in the past couple of years.”

The housing squeeze has hit other campuses – with Winston-Salem State University, East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University searching for beds.

Winston-Salem State is expecting the largest freshman class in the past decade and is prepared to use 260 hotel rooms off campus for beds.

Chancellor Donald Reaves said that although the school has been adding housing, this year's surge caught officials by surprise.

UNCC is one of the fastest growing colleges in the UNC system. It is projected to have 35,000 students by 2020.

Tina McEntire, director of undergraduate admissions, says the situation is under control. “We've planned for it, and I foresee the situation being resolved within the first few weeks of classes.”

The Associated Press contributed.