Central Michigan closes dorms as university enrollment drops
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Years of enrollment declines mean fewer students are living on-campus at Central Michigan University, but the school still operates 18 dormitories.
That will change during the 2022-2023 school year, officials said Thursday, as the university plans to close three residence halls on the northwest part of campus as it consolidates on-campus housing.
By closing Larzelere, Calkins and Trout dorms and only allowing a few graduate students to live in the fourth dorm in the North Community complex, Robinson, CMU will cluster students in fewer buildings.
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The move will bring “significant cost savings” to the university in Mt. Pleasant, interim associate vice president for student affairs Shaun Holtgreive and executive director of student affairs Kathleen Gardner told the campus in an email.
There were 3,666 CMU students living in residence halls in fall 2021, university spokesman Aaron Mills told Bridge Michigan. But the school has the capacity for 5,797 people, according to its 2021-2022 operating budget. That means dorm occupancy is at 63 percent.
Gardner and Holtgreive said the change will also add efficiency and restore hours to dining halls and social activities in the dorms.
While closing three dorms, CMU also plans to reopen two dorms and add more students to the dorm that had been the school’s designated isolation and quarantine housing during the pandemic.
In total, the school will have 16 residence halls open compared to 18 open this current school year, Mills said.
In the school’s 2021-2022 operating budget, the school anticipated $21,250,840 in revenue for its residence halls and $15,903,723 in expenses.
The school is looking at investing more in on-campus housing: The North Community buildings will undergo maintenance while they’re closed. Also, student newspaper Central Michigan Life reported the Board of Trustees is set to make a final decision in April on whether to approve a $135 million project that would build four new halls, construct a new parking lot, improve two parking lots and demolish one of the apartment complexes.
But in the meantime, the dorm consolidations mean 194 students who’d planned to live in the North Community will be moved. They will receive new housing assignments in mid-April with similar layouts and the same price, Mills said.
CMU junior Rudi Kelley, a resident of Robinson Hall, said he understands why the university made its decision, but he wishes it didn’t affect his dorm. Kelley participates in events held by RoC, a group of residents who live in Robinson Hall and Calkins Hall, and said those events have high participation rates, so it’s sad to see that community change.
“We're one of the most active and united communities on campus,” said Kelley. “We are also throwing events and we get very nice turnouts. We get enthusiastic students always ready to come and have fun. So it's a little bit of a shame to see that that community will be going.”
Kelley said he isn’t sure what his plans will be for next year yet.
“I respect their decision. I understand that it has to be done,” Kelley said. “It's just always sad to see a campus community shrinking.”
Mills said CMU hopes to reopen the North Community if enrollment grows.
But the university has suffered a significant enrollment decline over several years. The school combined enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students at the end of the fall 2012 semester was 27,114, according to CMU data. At the end of fall 2021, the total enrollment was 15,465.
The percentage of decline has reached double-digits for the last three years: 10 percent in fall 2019, and 11 percent year-over-year in both 2020 and 2021.
Statewide, other Michigan colleges and universities have experienced enrollment losses from the 2019-2020 year to the 2020-2021 school year, but some universities have been hit harder than others, according to fall headcount data analyzed by the House and Senate fiscal agencies.
Mills said he could not disclose projected enrollment for the coming year. Student “decision day” to commit to campus is May 1.
As the school lessens its COVID-19 precautions including spreading residents out to reduce the spread of the virus, it will move toward full capacity in suites and on floors.
First-year student Lillian Schuster lives in the South Community this year and plans to live with two friends in a suite in the East Community, two areas that will see more students next year. She said she “definitely felt frustrated” by the decision because she will now likely have a fourth suitemate, despite planning to live with two friends.
Schuster said last year, the school allowed students to pay more to have reduced occupancy in their rooms due to the pandemic and social distancing. However, she said, the Office of Residence Life told her by email Thursday that it was “not at this time allowing rooms to be bought out for reduced occupancy.”
Schuster said her dining hall changed its hours to only being open for dinner instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner. She said the food options used to change frequently, but now the food is the same every day.
Now she worries it will be overwhelming to room with a stranger as the university condenses housing options. She hopes the latest changes are temporary.
She said she understands COVID-19 has affected enrollment, but she said CMU is “constantly changing what it’s promising its students.”
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