A new academic year brings new challenges, including housing, but campuses are working hard to meet demands.
Rick Miranda, the interim president of Colorado State University, joked that he “is looking forward to carrying a few boxes” as he and his students officially arrive on campus for the national rite of passage that is move-in week. Like many other new institution leaders taking their posts, he will be unpacking, meeting new people and getting settled in.
They represent just a small fraction of the millions that are converging on residence halls and apartments at colleges and universities for the 2022-23 academic year, snarling roads and jockeying for position in hallways as they haul their items up the stairs and into dorms and other spaces, including makeshift hotel rooms.
They are being greeted by more than just fellow students this fall. They will contend with COVID-19 and its variants again, new outbreaks of the highly contagious monkeypox, political footballs such as Roe v Wade and inflation and affordability. How will they respond, and how will their institutions respond in kind?
Many admissions offices and other stakeholders across higher ed—from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and Elon University in North Carolina to the University of Nevada at Reno—have sent out guidance on expectations and handy resources prior to arrival. UNR put out a blog post from alumni to share their tips and tricks for incoming freshmen to survive the first semester. One alum said: “Don’t procrastinate. Write down test dates a week early in your planner so you start studying sooner. Talk to your professors, they have so much knowledge about the things you are interested in.” She also advised students to explore several clubs and “don’t be afraid to try new things.”
They will arrive, in many ways, at traditional-looking campuses, though that will mean traditional challenges, too. A welcome back message to students at Penn State includes this very long list of parking changes that is sure to be problematic for parents dropping off kids and for those distracted by friends they haven’t seen maskless since 2020. There already have been obstacles involving housing, including a few dorm delays at Flagler College, dirty apartments reported at the University of South Carolina, mold in some residences at Augusta College and low water pressure at Jackson State University.
Those institutions are all finding solutions, but perhaps the best came from Western Kentucky University, which allowed students to arrive on campus early because of the historic flooding in the state. The University of Kentucky also went above and beyond for the community and families in early August to help. “Our Office for Student Success mobilized quickly to reach out directly to more than 1,100 students who may have been affected by the flooding, connecting them with resources such as our Counseling Center, housing and other information regarding basic needs,” Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said, noting that its human resources and risk management teams also offered assistance to other colleges as well as employees who lost homes.
More from UB: Housing crunch sends colleges scrambling to find room for students
As for those coming to campus, some will be in residence halls while others will be forced to commute as an explosion of applicants and admitted students pushes space to their limits. There will be others who will arrive at off-campus apartments, paying exorbitant rent. While some institutions are planning a couple of days for move-ins, the big ones will be inviting students in for more than a week. Ohio State University got started last Friday and the process will continue through next Tuesday, as 14,000 strong bring their gear to campus. The university has asked that only one or two guests per student provide help. They will have to do so with masks but without moving trucks. More than 6,000 students will descend on the University of Tennessee in Knoxville starting today, but some of them will be staying at a nearby Holiday Inn run by university staff.
Move-in week, of course, is about more than just moving in, as new students get familiarized with campuses and the long lists of events they have planned. At Montana State University, its Debut lasts for more than a month with a rodeo, block party, in-service day, football game, concert and traditional painting of rocks.
“We are so excited to welcome all students back to campus,” Chris Pruden, student engagement and leadership adviser, said. “At MSU, we want to give our students the opportunity to achieve academically, but we also want to give them opportunities to engage with the local and campus community. Events like these keep our students connected.”
One of the institutions where residences are being watched closely this fall is Howard University, whose students staged a monthlong sit-in over conditions at its dorms last year. Rashad Young, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, told Howard’s news service The Dig that they “worked hard over the summer to prepare the campus, and students will continue to see ongoing maintenance throughout the buildings. We have contractors, plumbing, HVAC and electrical on-site, even after students move in, to ensure any concerns are immediately resolved. Students will see us very active in the building for weeks and probably even a couple of months after they move in.” They also set up a hotline for housing concerns that they say will be addressed within 24-48 hours.