When Pomona College students return from winter break in January, they may be seeing some new faces in the residence halls—those of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) students.
According to Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Eric Vos, CMC is currently operating slightly above maximum enrollment capacity, which has created a housing shortage on campus. Because of the shortage, four CMC students returning from off-campus study programs may be assigned housing on Pomona’s campus next semester. CMC students returning to campus for other reasons, including leaves of absence, have not yet been assigned housing, but if Pomona has additional rooms available, those students could live south of Sixth Street as well.
“Pomona’s conducting their room draw for students on off-campus study this Friday [Dec. 2],” Vos said. “Once all the dust settles from that process, they’ll have a clearer idea of how many additional rooms and beds they might be able to offer.”
According to Vos, Pomona has already guaranteed six beds in three two-person rooms for CMC students. Some at CMC, however, expressed concern about the effect of the housing relocation on students who will be living at Pomona.
“My concern is really that they’re going to be on South Campus, [so] they’re going to presumably be with people who are younger than them,” said Meagan Biwer CM ’12, a member of CMC’s Committee for Residential Life and a Residential Assistant. “I think it will be difficult for them.”
Biwer added that there is a difference in residential philosophy between the colleges, including varying alcohol and public space policies.
Despite the housing shortage, Vos was optimistic about more space opening up on CMC’s campus, as students transferring, taking a leave of absence, or being put on academic suspension could free up more rooms, although final numbers will not be known for another couple of weeks.
“It’s sort of a waiting game at this point,” Vos said. “As of today, the likelihood of those four students being [at Pomona] come January is very low. I think a few of them, if not all of them, will be able to get space at CMC. It just depends on how many students ultimately aren’t coming back to CMC in the spring.”
Students returning to CMC for reasons other than off-campus study are being given a lower housing priority, Vos said, but he added that there is still a chance that these students may be housed at CMC as well, depending on the number of openings.
According to Vos, a higher number of students studying off-campus in the fall than in the spring also contributed to the housing shortage. This imbalance, combined with the excess number of students, led the school to began calculating earlier this semester the number of additional beds required for the spring. Initially, this number was much higher than it is now.
“The original number [of extra people] that we were looking at was 29. At that point we didn’t know what we were going to do, but we had 29 extra people and 29 fewer beds than necessary,” Biwer said. “Right now, that number is four.”
After recognizing the housing crunch, Vos said that CMC gave students the option to live off-campus, which he said about eight to ten students decided to do. Some students also volunteered to turn a current double into a triple, which comes with a financial incentive of about $410 in savings on housing costs per semester.
To minimize the chance of a similar situation occurring in future years, Vos said that there are ongoing efforts to manage enrollment and correct the differences between numbers of off-campus students in the fall and spring. He pointed to an initiative from the Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) to encourage students to study abroad in the spring.
“I think [OCS] is trying to be really clear with people and up-front: you really need to have a compelling reason to go abroad in the fall versus the spring,” Vos said. “They’re trying to do a really good job of balancing any sort of discrepancy.”
Although Vos said that there are no current plans to build new residence halls, other steps have been taken this year to accommodate all CMC students, including turning some study lounges into rooms for the slightly larger incoming Class of 2015. Biwer said he was optimistic about these efforts to mitigate the problems.
“Ultimately, mistakes are made. I think now we just have to move forward in terms of how we’re going to handle it,” Biwer said. “I’m positive that conversations are being had that will make it so this doesn’t happen again.”
Apart from potentially housing CMC students, Pomona is also home to students from Scripps College, which is in the midst of its own housing crunch. Scripps Associate Dean of Students/Residential Life Staci Buchwald said that the entire third floor of Pomona’s Smiley Hall houses Scripps students this year. While 12 Scripps students lived on Pomona’s campus during the spring of 2011, this year there are about 25 students living at Pomona, all of them in Smiley. These students will continue to live in Smiley through next semester, and Scripps is currently looking into continuing the arrangement next year, although nothing has been finalized.
“I would anticipate that our housing crunch isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and I know that we’re definitely interested in keeping our floor in Smiley,” Buchwald said.
Buchwald said that the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 are both slightly larger than previous classes. To accommodate more students, Scripps increased the capacity of residence halls and then created housing in various apartment complexes in the area, in addition to the rooms it is using at Pomona.
“We are maxed out on our proper part of campus. We have tripled and turned really large singles into doubles,” Buchwald said. “We did not move toward looking at other options until we had absolutely maxed out.”
While there are future plans to construct a new residence hall, Buchwald said that option is still years away.
“We definitely are in plans for conceptual design of a new residence hall, but I don’t see that happening in the next couple of years,” Buchwald said. “We will continue to offer as many housing options as we can in the surrounding areas.”
Unlike CMC, Buchwald said that Scripps’s housing crunch is largely a result of larger first and second-year classes, rather than discrepancies in study abroad numbers, as last year’s numbers for fall and spring semester were about the same.