Enrollment numbers rise on campus

Graphic by Rahul Deshpande Student Publications

The student housing crisis is neither a new narrative, nor is it one unique to the Institute. 

With increasing application and enrollment numbers, specifically for undergraduate students, higher education institutions are finding it difficult to balance high enrollment numbers with adequate housing of a large student population in university-sanctioned housing. 

A simple Google search of “student housing shortages” reveals the depth of this issue, with articles spanning topics regarding affordability, accessibility` and the maintenance of on-campus student housing across institutions in the United States.

In the fall semester of 2021, students at Tech started to be notified of a new on-campus housing policy. 

Every semester, the Institute allocates a certain number of its mostly fixed 8,600 on-campus bed slots between the different cohorts of the student body: new first-year, new transfer, returning second-year, returning upperclassman and new and returning graduate students. 

In fall 2021, Tech had reserved a combined 3,570 slots for new first-year and transfer students and 2,400 slots for returning upperclassmen. 

Also in fall 2021, only a few months after the start of the current housing term for current residents, students were notified via email correspondence that cohort allocation for the following year would change.

For Fall 2022, new first-year and transfer students would be allocated 3,900 beds, an increase of 330 beds, or roughly nine percent, and returning undergraduate students would be allocated 2,045 beds, a decrease of 355, or about 15%. Roughly 4% of total on-campus housing shifted from returning upperclassmen to new Tech students to accommodate for a growing class size of first-year students. 

According to Housing and Residence Life (HRL), there are approximately 8,900 total bed spaces on campus for students, with some variation depending on number of staff, disability accommodations and other factors.

Tech has been executing an admissions growth plan, increasing the number of admissions steadily over the last few years. 

Enrollment numbers have also been growing in recent years. In 2020, Tech’s Atlanta campus had 2,087 newly enrolled first-year students. In Fall 2022, 2,326 first-year students were enrolled at the main Atlanta campus. 

The steadily increasing enrollment numbers combined with the greater allocation of on-campus bed spaces to underclassmen created a de-facto housing shortage among Tech’s upperclassmen during the housing allotment period of Spring 2022. 

Based on official numbers from HRL, “While nearly 1,000 students [were] on the housing waitlist for  2022-2023 early in the process, the year ended with less than 100 people still looking for housing in August.” 

While most upperclassmen found housing solutions of some kind, some were not according to the students’ initial plans and budgets. Additionally, the Technique reached out to HRL and Institute Communications regarding this apparent housing shortage in the wake of a growing student body. 

Representatives from HRL commented, “We are acutely aware of how important housing is for students in our community. Housing and Residence Life (HRL) and Institute leadership have been actively engaged in a plan to address the increase in demand for on-campus housing while remaining conscious of Georgia Tech’s relationships with neighboring communities. We try to be clear and thorough in all our communication about our challenges and plans.” 

Specifically, HRL pointed out that in order to address student concerns, the leadership team regularly meets with the Student Government Association (SGA) to relay information in a transparent manner once it is approved by the University System of Georgia (USG). Furthermore, in order to directly address concerns about Institute enrollment growth, “Housing and Residence Life began a carefully planned series of communication actions to share housing allocation initiatives, seek input and answer questions. Residents were informed of the allocation changes as well as the information sessions and resources available to them via email, HRL newsletters, text message and social media.” 

With a timeline dating back to November of 2021, SGA and the Residence Hall Association (RHA) were made aware of the new changes. Information sessions were consequently held to provide knowledge and answers to current residents. This same strategy will be employed by HRL for the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year for students. 

Another initiative spearheaded by HRL has been to partner with  CollegePads, a digital third-party service, in order to help students “conveniently identify off-campus housing options,” and “provide an off-campus housing portal specific to Georgia Tech students.” This resource can be accessed by students via offcampus.housing.gatech.edu, and an in-person Housing Fair will also be held on Tuesday, March 14. 

Meanwhile, speaking to students on campus has revealed a variety of opinions regarding the state of on-campus housing.

Toral Patel (CS ‘22) served as a Resident Assistant (RA) for the 8th Street Apartments for her second, third and fourth undergraduate years. But in Fall 2022, her final semester on campus, Patel moved to off-campus housing near the Scheller College of Business in Tech Square.

According to Patel, “I changed because I had no other options. Being an RA is a full year commitment, and I knew I would be graduating in December, so that role was no longer possible for me.

“I had planned on living in Georgia Tech Housing for that last semester, as it wouldn’t have left me saddled with a year-long lease. However, as an RA I guess I wasn’t on the mailing list of students that got information about when the housing application opened, so when it did — I found out too late,” Patel said.

According to Patel, the Institute has good reasons to accommodate its students in on-campus housing. Many students graduate in December; others leave Atlanta to study abroad or complete internships or co-ops as part of their studies. These students, like Patel, look for the flexibility offered by single-semester housing that is difficult to find in off-campus rental properties options.

The Technique also spoke with Aaron Bartleson, a third-year PHYS major. Bartleson spent his freshman year in Folk Residence Hall and his second-year in Woodruff South; for his third year at the Institute, he moved to Center Street South.

Bartleson said that, “like most people who were upperclassmen living in Woodruff, they were bumped out because of the freshman policy. That building was reserved for newly admitted freshmen students.”

“And also, I was kind of not enjoying the suite apartment setup that much. I would have preferred a greater degree of privacy. So, that’s my reason for moving to a normal apartment.”

Layout, availability, proximity to classes and general convenience were all factors mentioned by Bartleson. As a third year student in Fall 2022, Bartleson had just adopted the rank of upperclassman, which meant that, according to the Institutes newly distributed housing allocation numbers, there were fewer places for him to go if he wanted to stay on campus. 

Bartleson described his awareness of the situation with housing re-allotment as follows. 

“When stay day was [not] an option [after the housing re-allotment], we were told, ‘you can’t stay [at Woodruff South].’ That was pretty much when I heard about it the first time. I don’t really follow the kind of bureaucratic goings-on of Georgia Tech very much,” Bartleson said.

Luckily for Bartleson, the move to Center Street South in Fall 2022 resulted in what, for him, is a much more enjoyable living experience than Woodruff.

It is clear, however, that students on campus, including the upperclassmen, value the experience of on-campus first-year living that the Institute aims for. 

Patel stated, “I do think it is important for freshman and transfer communities to have their first year in campus housing. It is where so many friendships are forged, and Tech communities are found. However, I do think that needs to be a better job done to make sure the groups I mentioned above aren’t overlooked.”

Furthermore, according to Patel, “the Institute is only growing, and I truly think that the school needs to put focus on finding ways of increasing on campus student housing without leaving communities that need the short-term lease or crucial community building periods behind.”

It is clear that the Institute makes efforts to communicate its evolving housing policies as expressed by the HRL representatives. With an ever-expanding student population and potential campus expansion prospects in the future, it is unclear whether the Institute will shoulder the burden of creating more on-campus student housing for its new students in the near future. It is also unclear whether this increase in student enrollment is a trend that will continue and whether or not it will exacerbate housing shortages on campus.