Enrollment at the University of Connecticut has surged.

With classes set to begin Monday in Storrs, the freshman class is 21 percent larger than last year’s.

To accommodate the 3,756 incoming freshman, university officials have opted to house dozens of students at the hotel on campus, complete with maid service and access to the pool. The influx has also stalled plans to convert the student lounges, converted into dorm rooms years ago, back to studying and social areas.

“Students who live here have never had lounges. They don’t know what they are missing or not missing,” said Pamela Schipani, interim director of residential life for UConn.

With students set to begin moving in Friday, the wait list for housing is at 300 students. That list is made up mostly of upperclassmen and women, and those who didn’t turn in their housing requests on time, the university official said.

And the increase in the number of students isn’t expected to subside anytime soon, as the university’s “Next Generation” expansion plans promise to increase enrollment at the university’s main campus by one-third over the next decade. The state budget approved by the House and Senate also provided $15 million for the university to hire 66 new faculty and counselors to accommodate an estimated 650 additional students starting in the 2014-15 school year.

“We are expecting a big class next year as well,” said Schipani. “We are not yet at the highest capacity.”

With the chances slim for a new dorm opening in time for next school year, Schipani said several options remain to accommodate additional planned increases in enrollment. Resident assistants could be asked to share rooms with another student (as has been done in the past), and officials could become more strict on providing housing for those who miss application deadlines — a move that would likely lengthen the wait list.

The surge in enrollment has also led the university’s governing board to further deplete their emergency budget reserve. With the $2.5 million the Board of Trustees voted to spend to ensure that students have access to necessary courses, the university has raided $30.9 million from its reserves so far this fiscal year, leaving the fund at a historically low level.

The incoming freshman class comes with credentials that top last year’s freshman class. The university reports enrolling a record number of students who graduated at the top of their class and the highest SAT average.

This move to enroll additional students at the state’s flagship university comes as the number of Connecticut high school graduates declines as a result  of the state’s shrinking population.

So where will these students come from?

College officials have routinely said they do not intend to disproportionately rely on out-of-state students or lower entrance standards to fill the ranks.

The state’s other four state universities are struggling to maintain current enrollment. This past school year, the Connecticut State Universities experienced a 3.1 percent dip in enrollment. That system’s budget relies on increasing out-of-state enrollment to maintain enrollment at current levels. Enrollment numbers for those universities were not immediately available Thursday. 

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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