Residence halls face low enrollment

By Wendy Arquilla and Brian Slupski

NIU residence halls might have to tighten their belts if enrollment and occupation applications don’t increase.

As of Feb. 12, occupation applications for the residence halls were down by 288 students when compared to last year.

Carl Jardine, director of Student Housing Services, said the residence halls would lose out on about $850,000 in room and board money if the number of applications does not pick up.

Jardine said it was hard to judge what kind of impact the loss of revenue would have because of the budget process at the university. He said if enrollment is down next year, and tuition and room and board money is lost, then the university will decide how much of a cut departments like his will have to take.

The shortage of occupancy applications is being caused, partially, because NIU is experiencing a dip in applications. As of Feb. 3, NIU undergraduate applications were off 14 percent compared to last year, and students who have confirmed they will come to NIU is down 26 percent.

NIU could have 200-300 fewer undergraduates enrolling than was expected. This would cost the university about $500,000 in tuition money.

Jardine said he is optimistic that occupancy applications will increase between now and the end of this semester. He said in early January, occupancy applications were down between 350-400 students; that number has declined to the present figure of 288.

However, if applications don’t increase, Jardine said the resulting budgetary problems would be dealt with in several ways. He said one reduction might come in the area of services with the reduction of student employees.

Jardine added that capital projects, like building improvements, might be put on hold and supply expenses, like printing, also might be reduced.

Housing Services is also dealing with the problem by moving the application deadline for returning NIU students back. The deadline was Feb. 22, but will be moved back to March 31.

Housing Administrator Margaret Schmuller said, “The housing office needed more time to estimate how many vacancies there will be for the coming fall semester and how the office will deal with those vacancies.”

Schmuller said the housing office might have to consider the possibility of closing floors in the residence halls to keep costs down because of the drop in enrollment at NIU and the current vacancies in the residence halls this spring semester.

“We want to avoid having to close floors because it may displace the students currently living there,” she said.

Schmuller said the drops and vacancies have been hitting other Illinois universities for the past few years, but this is the first instance in a long time that keeping the residence halls filled has been a problem for NIU.

Schmuller said the housing office had targeted the Feb. 22 date for the sign-up deadline because the office would have been able to get underway with placing incoming fall students.

She said the office needed more time to establish the status of the residence halls. “Current students should decide soon on where they want to live next year so that they are ready for the March deadline.

“Off-campus students are always welcome to come back to the residence hall lifestyle if they find that apartment living does not suit them,” Schmuller said.