Loyola has a housing problem. It needs to be fixed or, at least, acknowledged.
Many first-year students have begun their first weeks of college life in converted-triple rooms—not because Loyola wants its students to make double the number of friends in their first years, but because the university can barely accommodate them.
The university’s newest incoming class — about 2,700 students — was the largest incoming first-year class in the school’s history, according to Clair McDonald, director of housing assignments, marketing and communications at Residence Life.
To guarantee the whole class could live on campus, Loyola implemented several measures aimed at fitting a large number of students into a small amount of space.
About 168 rooms on campus this semester are converted-triples, McDonald said.
That’s about 500 first-years living in cramped converted-triples, no doubt different from the doubles shown to prospective Ramblers on campus tours. That means 22 percent of first-year students living on campus are in converted housing.
For many other Loyola students, housing isn’t even an option. After underestimating the number of students the university would enroll for the Fall 2017 semester, many rising juniors and seniors at Loyola, who’d planned to live in on-campus housing another year, were suddenly slapped with a notice that they had been put on a deferred housing list. In squeezing the first-years into every available dorm room, the university had little room for its upperclassmen.
This is hardly a new problem for Loyola. Last fall, when the incoming class was also record-large, rooms in San Francisco, de Nobili and Mertz residence halls were converted into triples, while Regis Residence Hall’s first two floors were cleared of upperclassmen to make room for a slew of freshmen.
Some upperclassmen and second-year transfer students were placed in apartments-turned-dorms in The Sovereign building last fall because of the lack of space.
Loyola owns The Sovereign through its real estate company, Lakeside Management.
At the time, Director of Admissions Erin Moriarty seemed to see that Loyola couldn’t keep this up.
“We are excited with the number of students interested in being a part of our Loyola community, but we are not looking to increase our freshman class for next year,” Moriarty said.
That notion seems to have been ignored, as this year’s class size shows.
We’re not against Loyola taking in bigger classes. Just the opposite; growth and increased name recognition are good for the university. The Phoenix has reported the last two years on Loyola’s inclusion on the list of the United States’ top 100 colleges and universities. What we want is controlled growth. The students and faculty recognize there is a problem, so why does the university continue to feign ignorance?
It’s not that the solutions aren’t there. One possibility could be Loyola eliminating its second-year housing requirement. Currently, the university mandates students live in on-campus housing for their first two years. But if the entire freshmen and sophomore classes cause rooms to run short, Loyola should let the sophomores live in what is often cheaper, roomier, off-campus apartments.
Additionally, the university could get rid of its housing requirement entirely. DePaul University does not guarantee on-campus housing at all because space is limited.
The administration could also acquire apartment buildings and convert them into new on-campus housing, similar to what was done in creating Fairfield and Le Moyne residence halls.
Loyola could also create another Sovereign-style master-lease with other buildings owned by Lakeside Management to create more housing.
Even though new housing spaces wouldn’t magically pop up overnight, something needs to be done to amend the lack of transparency surrounding the housing problem. Just as much annoyance is drawn from the school’s seemingly blasé attitude toward the housing shortage as the tight living spaces themselves.
In a sit-down interview with The Phoenix, new Chief Financial Officer Wayne Magdziarz said the scarcity of housing was a big concern for the university administration and that he’d advised against taking in ever-increasingly-sized classes, but even he hadn’t had any solution in mind yet.
His goal was clear, however. Magdziarz said if a student on a tour of the school asks if he or she is guaranteed housing for four years, he thinks the answer should be “yes.”
If that is the case, the administration should do more building and less recruiting.