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An overcrowded UGA offers $1,000 to area freshmen to live at home, $3,500 for older students to go off-campus

Facing a critical fall dorm shortage after more freshmen chose to enroll at the University of Georgia this year, the popular Athens campus is attempting to entice local area teens to live at home. UGA is offering them $1,000 to give up their dorm rooms.

“The increase is due in part to the rising popularity of the University of Georgia among prospective students,” said UGA spokesman Gregory Trevor. “University housing has offered a $1,000 incentive for incoming first-year students from Clarke and contiguous counties to waive the university’s requirement that they live on campus their first year.”

That is not the only deal. UGA is offering a $3,500 housing discount fee for non-first-year students who agree to live in Brown Hall, which is on the Health Science Campus off Prince Avenue and about two miles from the main campus. Non-first-year students willing to forgo their on-campus housing contracts and live off campus will get $3,500 cash, said Trevor.

Both the $1,000 and the $3,500 incentives are being offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Board of Regents spokesman told me UGA is the only public campus facing oversubscribed housing and offering cash to entice kids to live elsewhere.

The growing demand for UGA underscores the long-held contention that Georgia needs another liberal arts college of its caliber and appeal.  Former Chancellor Erroll B. Davis hoped it would be Georgia College in Milledgeville. Is that happening? I know several kids going there, some happily, a few not so as their first choice was UGA.

I love Georgia College for its smallness. As a parent taking my twins to see colleges, Georgia College was my favorite tour. I feel like students would not get as lost there as they might at UGA. But both my kids like the energy and excitement of big campuses, which explains one at UGA and one at Georgia Tech.

If my freshman were eligible, I would advise against taking the $1,000 and staying at home. Commuting to college is not easy, having done it in grad school. Plus, research shows that undergraduate students living in dorms earn higher grades.

However, if I had an older child at UGA, I would tell them to grab the $3,500 deal. They are old enough to go off campus and that amount would cover a lot of rent.

Some parents discovered the housing crunch while at UGA this week for orientation. During a tour of an apartment dorm in UGA’s East Campus Village, parents and students learned the single bedrooms they expected would now house two students with the addition of bunk beds. Two-person apartments are being expanded to four students.

Parents will see a slight decrease in their housing tab from what UGA describes as “expanded” rooms. For example, a two-bedroom apartment in Vandiver Hall drops from $3707 for two students per semester to $3466 for four students, a discount of $241, said Trevor.

During one tour, parents were told the freshmen class was larger than expected by about a thousand students, but Trevor said, “Although final enrollment numbers will not be available until the beginning of the fall semester, the increase in the number of enrolled first-year students will be nowhere close to 1,000 – in fact, it will be less than half that figure. ”

UGA students are reporting that resident advisers — commonly called RAs — are being assigned roommates in oversubscribed dorms, something rarely done in the past. However, Trevor said, “When RAs sign their agreement, the agreement states that there is a possibility that RAs might have roommates.”

Housing options also narrowed this year with the closing of Russell Hall for renovation. The high-rise on Baxter Street housed 970 freshmen in double-occupancy rooms. With a total undergraduate enrollment of 27,500 students, UGA welcomed 5,475 first-year students last year.

Like many colleges, UGA requires first-year students to live on campus, although it has allowed exemptions in the past for students living with parents in nearby Clarke, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oglethorpe and Oconee. However, those exemptions did not come with cash incentives.



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Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.