Put Out: NCCU Juniors, Seniors Scramble for Housing
By Tommia Hayes -- Black College Wire   

For most juniors and seniors the bad news is just now beginning to sink in. It arrived in an October 29 memo from Jennifer Wilder, N.C. Central University’s director of Residential Life. It was titled: “2010-2011 Housing Outlook – Letter to Students and Family Members.”

The memo stated that if you’re a junior or senior, and if you’re not a student athlete, or in one of the University’s learning communities, such as the honors program, then you’ll need to find housing somewhere off campus.

Jerry Rogers/Campus Echo
New dorm to add 978 beds
Housing has been a long running problem at NCCU. The demand for rooms has for many years not been met by the supplier. In 2006 1,771 upperclassmen entered a lottery for an available 1,692 housing slots. Today, with increasing enrollment, the shortage is even worse.

According to Jennifer Wilder, director of Residential Life, there are about 8,500 students enrolled at NCCU and only 2,300 beds. Or as she put it in an e-mail “We are currently at .27 beds per student.”

The picture isn’t pretty: Thousands of NCCU juniors and seniors will be forced to live off campus whether they want to or not.

Chatiqua Brown’s situation is typical. The sophomore, who now lives in Ruffin Residential Hall, is already worried about what she will do if she can’t live on campus next year.

“I feel Central was being sneaky because they made the announcement through email instead of telling us in person, if they brought it up sooner or try to make sure we were notified maybe students like myself could have been more prepared” said Brown. 

Brown, who pays out-of-state tuition, says she likes living on campus, doesn’t have a car, can’t afford car payments or insurance, and isn’t interested in searching for a parking space every time she comes to class.

“It is unfair because people like myself do not have transportation,” she said. “We need housing and do not know what to do. It rushes students who are not ready for off- campus living.”

On top of that Brown doesn’t know how living off campus will affect her financial aid.

“It asks you if you will stay on the yard next school year so I do not know if I will get less money.”

In all, N.C. Central University has about 8,500 and 2,300 beds, according to Jennifer Wilder. That works about to .27 beds per student, a little more than one bed for every four students.

“Enrollment outpaced our bed spaces,” Wilder explains. “No school houses all their students.”

According to Wilder the decision to give priority to incoming freshmen, sophomores, athletes and honor students was made by Residential Life and the administration.

“Athletes have practice at all times of the day … and mostly on campus. They deserve priority because they represent our University,” said Wilder. “Honor students increase NCCU’s prestige and play a big role in attracting more honor students.”

Kevin Rome, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, explained why freshmen and sophomore were given priority:  “Knowing from literature and data it is critical for freshman and sophomore to live on campus,” he said. “They are not mature enough to live on own. It is important for them to have that foundation.”

Rome said that 1,358 freshmen lived on campus this year.

“It should not cost more to live off campus instead of living on campus. If you prioritize and budget your money,” he said.

But students complain that living off campus adds a number of expenses that are hard to deal with, including electricity bills, a car note, gas and insurance, and groceries.

The projected completion of Chidley Hall, which will add 978 beds, will hardly put a dent in the problem. In 2017 another residential hall, Cecil Commons, which will have 978 beds, is projected to be completed. By that time enrollment is expected to be at 13,500 and beds at 5,301. This will improve the current bed-per-student rate from .27 to .39. 

At .27 beds per student NCCU’s situation is worse than both UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. A&T universities.

UNC Chapel Hill has 8,700 beds for its 27,000 students, a bed per student ratio of .32, according to Rick Bradley, an assistant director of Housing and Residential Education at UNC-Chapel Hill. Bradley said that spaces are reserved for freshmen at UNC-Chapel Hill, but that housing is open to everyone.

N.C. A&T has 3,900 beds for its 11,000 students, a bed to student ratio of .35 according to Jermaine Foye, that university’s assignments coordinator with Housing and Residence Life. According to Foye their administration has decided to reserve 1,900 beds for incoming freshmen and hold a lottery for the remaining spaces.

N.C. State University has the worst bed to student ratio at .23 beds per student. The university has  just under 34,000 students and 8,000 beds. Even so, according to Susan Grant, director of University Housing with N.C. State University Housing, housing is not reserved for freshmen, but is open everyone on a first come first serve basis.

“The demand for beds is not a problem,” she said. “Usually students who want hosing get housing.”

Grant explained that this may be because demand at N.C. State University is largely met because there is so much more apartment housing nearby.

Many NCCU students living off campus reside at the VERGE or Campus Crossings, apartment complexes that provide transportation for student to and from campus. They also have a system set up so students can pay after they received refund checks.  

Residential Life is planning to sponsor off campus housing fairs and educational sessions, according to Wilder. These will cover topics such as “Financing Your off Campus Housing,” “Safety and Living off Campus,” “Credit Scores and the Apartment Application.”

“The hope is that by educating students they will make informed choices about off campus housing,” she said.

The University also wants to establish relationships with other apartment complexes, according to Rome.  “We are currently working to build more relationships with other apartment complex’s to provide same or similar set up as the Verge or Campus Crossing,” he said.

But Chatiqua Brown still feels like her future at NCCU is in jeopardy.

“If I can’t live on campus, Campus Crossing, or the Verge I may have no other option but to leave,” she said.

Tommia Hayes writes for The Campus Echo, the North Carolina Central University student newspaper, which originally published this article.

Posted Feb. 07, 2010