By Alex Kerravala, Staff Writer
As some of you may know, as of Spring 2018, the freshmen hall, Roberts, will be shut down indefinitely. I was able to meet with Lucinda Poudrier of Housing to ask her the questions on all our minds: Why? Where will the first year students go? How immediate was this decision?
As it turns out, there has been a slight decline in enrollment for the past several years. With the decline in incoming first year students, there was simply no reason to keep Roberts open. There are currently 109 students living in Roberts at the moment, and there is more than enough room in the rest of the other first year halls, and some space in Pine Dale, if necessary. I don’t believe this was a spur of the moment decision, either. The idea of shutting down a hall entirely began back in January of 2017, and when housing had to hire RAs, they hired 10 instead of the usual 14.
This fall semester was really a test, to see how many first year students this school would have, and if we could afford to go without one of the halls. The concerning thing was if the number of incoming first year students was equal to or close to the number of first year students the year before. Were that the case, it would be difficult to fit every first year, as well as every transfer student, in the remaining first year halls and Pine Dale.
As Poudrier said, “What would it feel like, to be crammed in a hall or feel like you’re crammed in a triple or quad and there’s room change fees and there’s nowhere to go and there’s an empty building standing next to you?” There was roughly the same amount of incoming first year students as 2016. However, after a transition period, the number of students dropped to an amount that come Spring semester, every student will be able to move into the other buildings just fine.
There shouldn’t be a problem keeping roommates together, they’ll be able to stay in the same type of room (double, triple, etc.), and have virtually the same housing experience.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is much UMass Dartmouth can do to get enrollment numbers back up.
“There are less students graduating high school than there were ten years ago,” said Poudrier. But I do believe that UMass Dartmouth is doing everything it can to attract more students, such as a more personal touch to admissions, the colleges themselves getting more active in the application process, and showing off student accomplishments with accepted students days and activities like it. My biggest concern with the incoming students is the rise in popularity in community colleges. The fact of the matter is that community colleges are significantly cheaper, and are a smart, safe option for the first two years of college. UMass Dartmouth will never be able to beat a community college’s price, so it is nice to know they are actively trying to appeal in more ways than price.
I believe that admissions is doing everything it can to improve the numbers of incoming first year students, and the school is also doing what it can to save as much money as possible while going through this drop in students. I truly hope that UMass Dartmouth can get their first year student numbers up, but there’s no telling if their efforts to attract more students will be successful, or if Roberts will be shut down permanently.