The "year off" school that many students took due to the Covid-19 pandemic is coming back to bite colleges this fall in the form of a major housing shortage.
In fact, schools like Middlebury College in Vermont and Dartmouth College are offering incentives to try and alleviate the stress of what is going to be a housing crunch when the new school year starts. Middlebury is giving its students ski passes to try and move them to satellite housing, while Dartmouth is offering $5,000 to students to get them to back out of living on campus. Dartmouth is also converting "common areas into bedrooms and doubles into triples," Bloomberg reported this week.
Justin Anderson, a Dartmouth spokesman, commented: “Other potential solutions, such as new modular housing or blocks of hotel space, proved to be less feasible.”
Middlebury's enrollment was up 13% to 2,880 from a typical year. It has also moved its room and board discount up to 50% for students who opt to live off campus and shuttle to campus. This deal includes ski passes, free laundry and a faculty parking pass.
Derek Doucet, dean of students, commented: “Our first priority is to provide an in-person educational experience to all active students who wish to be here.”
The shortage is going to hit harder at many liberal arts colleges where the on-campus experience is part of the appeal of the school. Alex Bloom, director of undergraduate enrollment research at EAB Global Inc, said that people at these schools "want to walk around and have a sense of intimacy, a small environment with access to everything" and that their "value proposition is most dependent on the in-person college experience.”
“The line between living and learning is practically nonexistent,” Pomona College's website says. 94% of students usually live on campus for all four years.
The shortage poses extra challenges since many students are excited about the prospect of resuming "normal" and again living on campus. “Living on campus was something I really wanted to do because I’d been away for so long,” said 20-year-old Valeria Andrade at Dartmouth.
Many other colleges are expecting robust enrollment for the coming year as well. Harvard, for example, is set to have its largest freshman class since World War II, the report noted.