Small freshman class results in dorm vacancies

Framingham State University is not at full residential capacity for the first time in 15 years. There are 69 vacancies in the dorms, said Dale Hamel, executive vice president in an interview on Nov. 15.

According to Glenn Cochran, director of residence life, the freshman class came in smaller than projected this fall which along with the opening of West Hall, resulted in the “unusual circumstance where we have some vacancies.”

In past years, students would still be on the waiting list or living in temporary housing around this time of year, Cochran said.

Hamel said, “If you have a small freshman class, it has the biggest impact on the dorms.”

The smaller freshman class will have a lasting effect, according to Cochran. “When the numbers come up short one year, it’s not just an issue that year. This smaller class will cascade forward.”

According to Hamel, the vacancy rate has impacted the University’s revenue. “In theory, there is a little over half a million dollars additional revenue that could be generated if we were full.”

Hamel said the University was already projecting a deficit for the upcoming year due to the building of West Hall. The deficit was also impacted by the University’s decision to not increasing the rent “all in the first year to kind of accommodate that additional debt. … We try to do a 3-percent increase or so in rent year-to-year.”

The cost of living on campus increased $300 from last year, said Hamel.

FSU is the second lowest university in cost compared to its sister colleges Bridgewater, Fitchburg, Salem Westfield and Worcester state universities. Fitchburg State University is the least expensive.

“Fitchburg hasn’t really built a large new dorm, so that’s why they are significantly below everybody. We are the second lowest in the system – a little below the average,” Hamel said.

As a response to the vacancies the University is offering “doubles as singles, allowing a person to buy out the other half of their room at a discounted rate. It’s about [ an additional] $900 a semester,” said Cochran.

Takida Wiggins, a freshman, said “It’s better to have at least a bigger room for not as much.”

Freshmen Verenisse Vellz-Mota said, “It’s good that they are offering it for people to have the opportunity to have that larger room.”

Cochran said the vacancies are located throughout campus.

Long term, University administrators hope to see level of enrollment rise to fill the residence halls not just with freshman but upperclassmen, said Hamel.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been trying to do with North Hall and West Hall is to provide different types of housing options, mainly suites, which are more attractive to the upperclassmen than freshman,” he said.

The University plans to create learning community floors that encompass different themes, according to Cochran.

“We are looking at community service, community engagement type of a floor. Even if nothing had changed in the occupancy front, we were looking to do something to add to the experience of resident students,” Cochran said.

The themes are of interest to many students Cochran said. “One of the ideas we talked about was … combining some ways to use your skills that also provides some service to the community and engages you with members of the local community, and so it’s a service-learning type of an approach.”

He added, “We are working to carefully coordinate it.”

The University is not expecting to fill the vacancies next semester, he said.   

Cochran said, “I think we will probably be in a similar position, if I had to guess. That we will be close to full, but not full, probably. We still might be able to have a little bit of wiggle room to accommodate requests and situations that come up.”

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