Due to a drop in the number of study abroad applications for fall semester, the Pomona College Office of Campus Life (OCL) is anticipating a housing crunch that would make it impossible for all students to obtain on-campus housing.
In response, the college is planning to offer an off-campus housing option at the College Park Apartments.
Currently, 102 students are abroad and only 83 students have applied to study abroad in the fall. Taking factors that might further reduce the number into account, Housing Director Deanna Bos said OCL is expecting to have to find housing for about 40 more students than usual in the fall. This would be in addition to the roughly 40 students who currently live off campus by choice.
“We have a finite number of rooms and typically we’re pretty close to full in the fall,” Bos said. “Having a 20 to 30-person drop of people who are leaving in the fall is significant.”
Although typically around 50 percent of Pomona students opt to study abroad, Rhoda Borcherding, Director of Study Abroad, said her office operates on a semester-to-semester basis and, therefore, they cannot know how many students will apply to go abroad in any given semester.
However, Borcherding said the drop in study abroad applicants did not surprise her. She said colleges and universities around the country are seeing similar drops, presumably due to the economic downturn.
“A lot of people still aren’t better,” Borcherding said. “Unemployment is still at around 10 percent and this is going to impact some of our families.”
Staff from OCL met last week to discuss how to deal with the overflow of students that must be housed in the fall. In past housing crunches, Pomona has expanded singles into doubles and doubles into triples, or has housed students at one of the other four colleges, said Bos.
However, she said the other campuses are having similar housing problems and would not have room to house extra students. In addition, although the option of turning singles into doubles is still being considered, Bos said the number of extra beds this would create would still not be enough to house every Pomona student.
Currently, 97.5 percent of Pomona students live on campus, and Bos said in her 25 years at Pomona, the college has never encountered a situation where they were forced to send students off campus.
Some students said they were upset when they heard the college was considering housing students off campus.
“I don’t think it’s an option the college should consider,” Kathryn Rabak PO ’13 said. “A major attraction of Pomona is that students can live on campus all four years and they don’t have to worry about getting a room. If it’s inescapable, then so be it, but if there’s any other way they should make it work.”
Wei Jun Mun PO ’12, one of the many Pomona sophomores choosing not to go abroad next fall, said he is sympathetic to the college’s situation, but believes the college should speak with students about the problem to determine what can be done to make living off campus as easy as possible for students.
OCL hopes to have an information session for the campus as early as next week to discuss the situation.
College Park Apartments, which is technically in Upland, is about 1.2 miles—a 20-minute walk—from the Pomona College Admissions Office. Pitzer and Scripps Colleges are currently housing students in the apartment complex and Bos said OCL hopes to learn more from their experiences.
Although OCL is still working out the details of offering off-campus housing, Bos said she expects the option will be offered to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The College would sign the lease and students would pay the same room costs as if they were living on campus. OCL has not yet determined how board costs would work for students living in the apartment complex.
Bos said the housing crunch would not impact the number of incoming freshmen Pomona chooses to admit. With the new North Campus dormitory scheduled to be finished in time for the 2011-2012 school year, this housing crunch should only be a one-year problem.
Although Bos said the situation is not ideal, she believes this is the best solution.
“I believe it is one of the better solutions that we have come up with,” Bos said. “If you don’t have enough beds, it’s going to be a tough year for somebody. Being a residential college, this is not what we want to do, but sometimes we’re presented with facts and we have to come up with a solution.”