The Times West Virginian

August 16, 2008

Student housing at FSU booming

Current numbers indicate decline in enrollment

By Katie Wilson

FAIRMONT — While enrollment may be down at Fairmont State this year, student housing is booming.

The university’s board of governors received preliminary enrollment numbers at its meeting Thursday.

The numbers indicate as of Aug. 9, enrollment at the graduate, undergraduate and community college levels within Fairmont State is down by 131 students.

The true enrollment figures won’t be known until well after school starts. Different things can affect whether a student actually enrolls in college.

Pierpont Community & Technical College President Blair Montgomery said he checks the enrollment figures daily and it’s not as bad as the Aug. 9 report indicates.

“We’re sitting identical to where we were last year,” he said. “I’m not worried.”

FSU Board of Governors Chairman Andy Kniceley said the spring graduating class was unusually large, so there are fewer returning students. Lower enrollment means the board may have to make cuts to the budget, as it had to do last year.

One area that isn’t suffering is student housing.

Michael Belmear, the university’s vice president for student affairs, said right now, the university is short 147 beds.

Basically, all the dorms are full and there are still more students in need of housing. The four dorms are at capacity: Morrow Hall has 160 students; Pence Hall, 154; Prichard Hall, 150; and Bryant Place, 400.

To accommodate the overflow, some students will be placed at the Red Roof Inn, he said.

“We’ve done it before,” Belmear said. “They allow booking by day, and if the kids can move to campus, they stop billing us.”

This isn’t a new problem for Fairmont State. Last year, 30 students were housed at the motel until housing space on campus opened up, he said.

The issue is whether the students — and their parents — will be happy with accommodations in a motel.

Belmear said students aren’t really happy with the arrangement, but he believes it’s better than telling them they’re on their own. The university runs shuttle buses to provide transportation and at least one Resident Assistant will be placed at the motel.

Kniceley said he was concerned that if the situation isn’t handled well, the students would become dissatisfied and leave.

To give students more housing support, Belmear said he would restart a list of off-campus housing. That list was available several years ago and included landlords and properties that had passed inspection by the city.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.