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IOWA CITY — Due to a larger-than-expected freshmen class coming next month to the University of Iowa — meaning strong demand for on-campus housing — the UI has announced several measures aimed at mitigating crowding in its residence halls.
Where the campus in both of the last two academic years provided on-campus isolation and quarantine space for students who contract COVID-19, students this fall must come up with their own plan, according to a recent message from UI Housing and Dining.
The university also is reopening its Parklawn Hall, which UI officials previously suggested they might raze as part of redevelopment plans for 7.8 acres that include the former Hawkeye marching band practice field.
“That is a residence hall that is now vacant,” UI Business Manager David Kieft told a group of Manville Heights neighbors last August during a community meeting on plans for the field and Parklawn, built 67 years ago along N. Riverside Drive, west of Hancher Auditorium.
“Our residence hall system is not interested in maintaining that as a residence hall,” Kieft said at the time. “It was our least favorite site for students.”
But surging demand has changed those plans, according to the recent Housing and Dining message.
“Due to strong demand for on-campus housing this fall, University Housing and Dining will be reopening Parklawn Hall beginning this academic year,” according to the communication, reporting Parklawn will house 137 students in “studio and one-bedroom apartments.” Five years ago, in 2017, Parklawn was listed as housing 98 residents.
In other measures this fall aimed at addressing the overflow, UI Housing and Dining is converting student lounges on floors in its Rienow, Slater and Stanley halls into rooms. Six students will share each lounge, which will be accessible only by key to its residents.
“As traditional rooms become available throughout the semester, students will be assigned new rooms and will move based on their application date,” according to UI Housing and Dining.
Due to the change in its “COVID-19 support protocol,” UI Housing and Dining gave students extra time to request release from their housing contract at no cost.
“Due to the size of the incoming class, the University of Iowa will have limited space available in the Iowa House Hotel for students wishing to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19,” according to the message, referencing options available the last two years.
This year, students are being encouraged to have their own plan in place should they test positive for COVID-19 and to update a housing application portal with that plan before moving in.
“Students may choose to return home or find alternate housing off campus in the event that they or their roommate needs to isolate or quarantine,” Housing and Dining officials said in their message.
Officials didn’t answer The Gazette’s questions about how many students have signed contracts to live on campus this fall.
“Housing contracts are not yet binding, and the numbers will continue to shift until the beginning of the fall semester,” UI spokesman Steve Schmadeke said.
UI in February forecast its housing capacity for fall at 6,622, according to Board of Regents documents. At that time, officials projected 91 percent occupancy.
UI Housing and Dining took a hit during the height of the pandemic, watching its occupancy fall from 94 percent in the academic year that started in fall 2019 to 78 percent in fall 2020 and 85 percent in the last academic year.
The UI for the new academic year increased residence hall rates 3 percent based on “estimated operating costs, needed infrastructure improvements, available capacity, and the debt service requirements.” Gross revenue for the 2022 budget year that ended June 30 was projected at $69.8 million — $3.1 million below initial projections. Revenue estimates for the new budget year that started July 1 were $10.2 million higher at $80 million.
And although staffing had been an issue for UI Housing and Dining during the pandemic, Schmadeke told The Gazette on Thursday, it’s “fully staffed for the fall semester.”
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