INFRASTRUCTURE

Over-enrolled, Virginia Tech to put students up in Holiday Inn

SOURCE: Virginia Tech
Some 200 Virginia Tech students starting this fall will have to put up in a hotel instead of campus housing.

This fall, some 200 students starting their term at Virginia Tech will be checking into a hotel instead of the conventional student dormitory.

The reason for the unusual housing arrangement is this: the university has admitted a larger number of applicants than it can cope with.

According to Mark Owczarski, a spokesman for the university, this is because “more students said ‘yes’ than anticipated”. 

The university had been aiming for an incoming batch of 7,000 students which, in keeping with the trend of students not following through with plans, was expected to drop to a more realistic number of 6,600. 

But instead of the 7,000, it received 8,009 acceptances. Late May, the school reportedly sent out emails to 1,559 students offering cash inducements to defer enrolment. 

The reason for the sudden enrolment surge is not immediately known but the belief is that it may be due to Virginia Tech’s plans for its new Northern Virginia Innovation Campus in Alexandria. Last November, the university confirmed it was constructing the campus just two miles south of the planned site for Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2, in Arlington County. 

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There’s no direct connection but Owczarski said the “halo effect” around the new campus may have sparked some excitement, although a little premature – the Alexandria campus won’t open for five to 10 years.

In the meantime, Virginia Tech has a serious overcrowding challenge to fix.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge for Virginia Tech to have,” Owczarski previously said.

According to reports last weekend, an agreement in principle has been reached between the university and the Holiday Inn Express in Blacksburg, confirming rumours about the deal. 

Holiday Inn Express
Not your conventional student housing: the Holiday Inn Express in Blacksburg will turn into a temporary student dorm this fall. Source: Holiday Inn Express

Use of the hotel will provide the university with 195 beds, making up a part of the shortfall. Owczarski reportedly said that the school was “excited” by the arrangement.

“Now that we have this agreement, in principle, in place now, we’ve got July and August to begin to work hard at creating an experience, a campus living experience, that’s very similar to an on-campus experience,” Owczarski was quoted saying in 10 News.

He couldn’t provide details as to what it would cost the school, however, as the details were still being worked out.

The university is also still working out other arrangements to manage housing for the enrolment surge. Tech provost Cyril Clarke has said that the school was in search of about 500 beds off-campus, after adding 500 to its current campus offering.

“We’re having many conversations and looking at many, many options,” Owczarski said in a report by The Roanoke Times.

Holiday Inn has yet to provide comment on the arrangement but the hotel is shown online to be booked after August 6. Classes begin on August 26. Students with on-campus housing are scheduled to move in the week before.

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According to previous reports, the firm handling enrolment for Virginia Tech is predictive model agency Ruffalo, Noel, Levitz. In 2017, the firm entered a three-year contract worth US$168,000 to help model enrolment. The

Owczarski, however, said the university was satisfied with the firm’s work. But some members of faculty aren’t quite so impressed by the situation.

A letter from engineering education professor Marie Paretti to fellow members of the Tech Faculty Senate reportedly said the university should have anticipated the numbers.

“Frankly, it is unacceptable to me to hear anyone in the administration suggest that these numbers are unexpected,” she wrote.