Over capacity: Some University of Iowa students temporarily living in lounges

Demand for on-campus housing exceeds capacity for first time in 3 years

Aleksandra Budzinska (left), Ian Gray (center) and Zachary Warne, all of Ridgewood, N.J., unpack a carload of Warne's be
Aleksandra Budzinska (left), Ian Gray (center) and Zachary Warne, all of Ridgewood, N.J., unpack a carload of Warne’s belongings on Wednesday outside Burge Residence Hall at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. A little more than 100 students — who applied for on-campus housing late — are temporarily sharing space in UI residence hall lounges until rooms open up. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Bucking expectations, the University of Iowa for the first time in three years has more students wanting to live in its residence halls than it has room for — forcing 100-plus students into “expanded housing,” which involves six to eight residents sharing space in a residence hall lounge.

This fall’s overcapacity quandary is the university’s first since it added more than 1,000 beds to the east side of campus in 2017 with the new 12-floor, 303,000-square-foot Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall.

The new hall joined the west side’s new 501-bed, 11-floor Mary Louise Petersen Hall, which in 2015 became the university’s first new residence hall since 1968.

In February, officials with the UI residence system projected occupancy rates below 100 percent for at least the next five years, according to Board of Regents documents.

“With the expected availability of housing space, (University Housing and Dining) is in a position to actively market and retain a larger number of returning students in the residence halls,” according to the regent documents.

The UI, per the board report, created a pilot program to debut in Catlett Hall this fall “for a second-year experience in the residence halls for returning students that seek more privacy and amenities.”

“This second-year community will be located in Catlett Hall,” according to the documents.


The UI residence system has a 6,660-student operating capacity, and its February projections anticipated 6,078 students this year — which would have put it at 91 percent full.

With thousands returning to campus this week, UI officials declined to provide updated residency numbers, saying those figures — including how many new and how many returning students are living on campus — will be made public after the university’s official census day in September.

Many of the 106 UI students who’ve been placed in expanded housing — lounge space in the university’s Rienow, Slater and Stanley residence halls — still could be there at that time and remain there for “the first two months of the academic year, at the latest,” UI spokeswoman Hayley Bruce said.

Students assigned to the temporary digs applied for housing after May 2.

Iowa State, UNI still have rooms OPEN

Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — like Iowa — also projected undercapacity resident rates in the coming year, but both those campuses on Thursday told The Gazette they’ll have a vacancy cushion this fall as expected.

“We currently have 3,225 students contracted to live on campus this fall, which is anticipated to be 31 percent of students enrolled occupying 85 percent of beds available to students,” Glenn Gray, UNI assistant vice president and executive director of residents, said in an email.

The UNI in February projected total occupancy would reach 3,500 this year — although UNI President Mark Nook this summer flagged an expected enrollment drop for the fall of about 600 students.

Iowa State earlier projected occupancy this year would top 11,180, according to regent documents. But it recently announced an anticipated enrollment dip and it, too, is housing fewer students than projected, with about 10,710 expected to live in the residence system this fall, according to Pete Englin, ISU assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence.

Of those living on the Iowa State campus, 5,926 are new students, 4,597 are returning students and 187 are living in family housing.


Iowa State, according to Englin, prefers to keep a 5 percent vacancy cushion “so students have options, should they want to make a change.”

“We are at about 7 percent,” he said, which “gives students flexibility to move within our housing options.”

The campuses said this week’s move-in is going smoothly, with Englin noting that’s a feat, with so many newcomers to welcome.

“When you move in the population of a Spencer or a Pella, it is a wonder how well it goes overall,” he said.

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