It has been almost a year since chaos broke out on Rowan University’s campus. More than 600 students were placed on an extensive waiting list to enter the lottery for on-campus housing, forcing them to look elsewhere to live, with little time available, for the upcoming academic year.
“I cannot even find the words to describe how I felt when I found out I was placed near the bottom of the waitlist for housing,” said Mark DaSilva, a junior communication studies major at Rowan University. “It was already late March and the majority of off-campus houses were already rented out for next year. Luckily, I found somewhere eventually. But where I live now is far from campus and is not my ideal living situation.”
DaSilva was not the only student aggravated by the waitlist. Hundreds of angry students drafted and signed multiple petitions in attempt to fight it.
According to a fact sheet provided on Rowan University’s website, the current enrollment is 14,778 students. Only 4,319 currently live on campus.
Rowan University recently announced its goal to double the number of students to 25,000 by 2023, which helps toward its overall plan to expand the campus and school itself. Out of those 25,000 students, the university aims to have 60 percent of students living on campus, according to Joe Cardona, vice president of university relations. When you double the number of students, however, you need somewhere for them to live. The university soon realized that if they want to double the number of students, they need to take the next step and expand the housing available to students.
The newest housing complex, currently called the Housing Village, was approved at the Board of Trustees meeting in January. It will have 1,400 beds for students to fill and will cater mainly toward upperclassmen. The Housing Village will be located where Lot X currently is, on the corner of the Rowan Boulevard apartments and Landmark Americana, and is on track to be completed by fall 2016.
“Imagine nice green, sidewalks and beautiful apartments all in that area,” said Cardona.
This new complex is part of a public-private partnership. This is the first time Rowan is housing students in privately-owned property. The way the partnership works is the contractor receives ownership and rent, but Rowan is the one who decides who gets to live there based on the lottery system.
There will not be stores located on the ground floor of the Housing Village. However, it will contain a dining hall and a medium-sized gym to help make the complex more self-sustained. Gourmet Dining will be in charge of the dining hall’s food due to its exclusive contract with the university. However, the university will subcontract with different vendors, all falling under Gourmet Dining’s umbrella.
Another aspect to look at is how the construction will affect the campus. “Just eight years ago, the core of the students were all here and revolved around the student center. This shifts everything heavily toward the downtown area and Rowan Boulevard,” said Cardona. “Doing this helps make the relationship between the community and the college stronger.” The move also opens up doors for vendors and members of the community.
Cardona explained how the Village Housing complex with be somewhat a la carte. “When you look at campus communities, there needs to be a distribution of housing — housing that’s more affordable and housing people are willing to pay extra for and get the special accommodations.” The room types will vary and the prices will be flexible. “If you want to pay extra, you can. If you want to live in a cinderblock building, you can.”
This plan is estimated to cost $120 million. Once numbers get involved, students tend to have a strong opinion of the idea.
Katie Bussman, a senior public relations major, believes building more housing complexes is a bad idea. “I understand they want to expand, but they can’t just suddenly take in a huge number of students. It’s forcing everyone’s tuition to go up and now everyone else has to suffer.”
Amanda Hauske, a senior civil engineering major, agrees. “Students chose to go to this school due to its small size and low cost of tuition. When students came in as freshman, they were under the impression they’d have access to on-campus housing for all four years. Now Rowan’s availability for housing is limited and the current students don’t see it as a fair mechanism to expand the school.”
On the opposing side, junior finance major Jeffrey Stein believes this is a step in the right direction for the university, but the approach is all wrong. “I think building more housing for upperclassmen is a waste of valuable space for Rowan. Starting junior year, students are allowed to move off-campus, expanding their housing opportunities to truly endless options, whereas sophomores and freshmen are required to live on campus. As Rowan’s student body grows, there needs to be more housing available for the upcoming freshmen and sophomore classes. What this all boils down to is that lot X should be used for freshmen and sophomore housing. This will resolve the relatively uncomfortable living conditions for these grade levels and eliminate a huge portion of the massive wait lists Rowan currently has to deal with every year.”
Now for the final question every Rowan student wants to know: where will these students be parking? The students living in the Housing Village will park in the parking garage located on Rowan Boulevard.