Journal & Courier
WEST LAFAYETTE — With the largest incoming class in the past 40 years of Purdue history set to arrive this fall, the University Residences department had to make some changes to accommodate the upcoming 10,000 freshmen.
One priority necessary to expand capacities for on-campus housing was turning rooms made for two people into ones that can hold up to four.
“So a typical double room would typically have two students assigned to it,” Barb Frazee, assistant vice provost for student life, said. “But this year, we’ll be having about 600 (students) in 200 rooms that are doubles or triples.”
The residence halls converted to triple and quadruple rooms will be Tarkington, Wiley and Owen halls. The modification of double rooms to triple rooms still allows for each resident access to a desk, dresser and storage within the 188 square feet of space in each double-turned-triple room. However, students in these rooms will have to share two closets between them.
Other rooms that have been turned into triples and quadruples – or quads – include those that were previously conference rooms. These conference rooms, which used to house one long table with surrounding chairs for group studies and meetings, will now host up to four residents.
“We’ve got four beds in here, four dressers, four desks,” Frazee said. “There’ll be two standalone wire wardrobes. We’ll have three or four (quad rooms on campus). But we also have rooms like this style at Cary, Tarkington, Wiley, Owen (residence halls). We also have some at Meredith South that we’ve reconfigured, and a couple in Meredith.”
The Purdue Office of the Provost also noted that none of the reconfigured rooms are in the basement of their residence halls and that every room has windows.
Not all the lounge and study spaces in on-campus residence halls have been converted to resident housing either, as Purdue still wants a place for students to be able to come together.
No longer at a distanceWith a capacity of 12,500 students in campus housing last year, and being under that capacity due to online classes, the incoming 2021 freshman class has caused Purdue to do a complete 180-degree turn from distancing students to making extra room for more.
“This year, we started with a capacity of 13,244 (in on-campus housing).” Frazee said. “And then we grew that because of this enormous class that has surprised all of us. Right now we have 15,107 beds.”
In addition to rearranging rooms to fit more students, Purdue also reached out to local landlords and property owners in the area.
“Part of what we built was through leasing 10 different landlords and property owners for spaces in the community nearby to campus,” Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life, said, “including a fraternity house. The furthest away would be Lindburg (Housing) and the (U.S. Route) 231 area.”
Returning students to Purdue campus were offered the option to move back into on-campus housing before the freshman class.
“We had over 300 (returning) students take advantage of that (returning to on-campus housing).” McCuskey said. “Then the rest of those units will be offered to the first-year students based on the preferences that they made on their survey.”
In order to select housing, students were given a survey to pick their preferred proximity to campus. However, within Purdue’s history, students have never been required to live on campus.
“We have the absolute highest return rate to on-campus living in any of the Big 10,” Frazee said. “This year we have over 40 percent of our upperclassmen students that will return to live with us.”
On-campus students, the Office of the Provost stated, will thrive despite the close quarters – condensing – in a number of ways.
“The students who are living with us, they do better academically,” McCuskey said. “That’s why, even in these (condensed) apartments, students tend to do better, because we are supporting them. We are getting them help.”
Past years’ usage of temporary housing spaces will continue for this year’s large incoming class of freshman.
“We will have some temporary spaces, just in case,” McCuskey said. “We don’t know exactly how these numbers (of on-campus residents) will shake out until the very end. So we always have to have those temporary spaces just in case.”
For more information on temporary housing spaces, visit Purdue’s auxiliary housing website.
“We worked really hard to be able to house everybody who met our May 5 deadline,” Frazee said. “But if you missed either the deadline as a returner for Feb. 28 or you missed the May 5 deadline, then you were told this year ‘We just can’t do it for you. We’re sorry.’ ”
Making room for the large freshman class will not be at the expense of incoming upperclassmen who wish to live on campus.
“While that sounds like that’d be a really awesome way to make space for freshmen,” Frazee said, “it would change the entire makeup of a building, and the entire experience. It’s not in our immediate plan.”