They brought just what they needed.

But what little they have still sits on the floor packed away in trash bags and crammed under beds.

“There’s not even a place to put the television,” said Dickey Hall resident Meredith Cyr. “We have to keep it on the floor.”

Cyr, along with her roommates Noelle Cook and Jen Czifrik, has spent her first week at USM in a 12-by-18 foot room.

Due to increasing enrollment, at least 100 rooms were tripled up, putting 300 students in triples across the Portland and Gorham campuses. By the end of last week there were 86 triples.

Those that must remain in a triple for the remainder of the semester will receive a 30 percent refund of their room and board bill. However, if an opportunity arises for the room to be broken down and the occupants all decide to stay, no refund is given.

Only time will tell when a room becomes available. Once the temporary rooming situation is fixed, however, the roommates are left with the decision of who will move out, a choice students say can be hard after friendships are made.

“We have no idea who’s gonna move out. We could all be good friends by the time a room becomes open,” said Cyr.

The housing crunch is due to increasing enrollment and more students deciding to live on campus, according to Craig Hutchinson, vice president of Student Development.

Last year, the University opened with a record enrollment of 10,820 students, making it Maine’s largest in year of 5,128.

Rosa Redonnett, vice president, Division of Enrollment Management, anticipates seeing how many full-time, out-of-state and graduate students enroll. “It’s exciting. Gorham is packed. I love it. It’s such a neat week,” said Redonnett.

School officials feel the housing crunch isn’t a problem. “If anything it’s a good sign,” said Hutchinson. “It goes to show that a large number of people share an interest in USM.”

He added the increase in resident students means dorm life must be getting better.

“There’s a better experience living on campus,” said Hutchinson, who said he is always glad to see more students make that decision.

“USM is not the only school dealing with overcrowding either,” said Redonnett.

Many colleges nationwide are reporting increasing numbers in enrollment and students living on campus.

At Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire, Maria Laskaris, Admissions Department, says, “We have given incoming Freshmen the choice of deferring enrollment for a year, and by doing so they will receive free housing for the year 2002-2003, which is roughly $5,000.”

Hutchinson feels Gorham has done well cutting back on the overcrowding since students were allowed to move in. As for Portland, Portland Hall is 10 percent over capacity. “Portland Hall’s overcrowding is mostly due to the availability of housing in Greater Portland and the rates,” said Hutchinson. “There is roughly 97 percent full housing vacancy in Greater Portland from what I hear, leaving students with no decision but to live on campus or elsewhere.”

Not only are USM students living in Portland Hall, but students from Southern Maine Technical College, Maine College of Art and Andover College are too.

In the past, experiences have shown that not many students live in Portland Hall, leaving open space, according to Hutchinson. Therefore, rooms are leased out to other colleges on an annual basis. “Having made these agreements with other colleges in the past now leaves Portland Hall in a housing crunch,” said Hutchinson.

Students living on campus last year stood at 1,354. This year, 1,670 students live on campus, including the 221 students living in the new dorm, Philippi Hall.

In time, the number of triples will decrease, according to campus officials.

In the meantime, Cook, Cyr and Czifrik all feel “the roommates make all the difference.”

“Last fall, the situation seemed to take care of itself,” said Caswell, “with rooms becoming available due to no shows and drop outs.”

Though the situation is already slowly improving in Gorham, officials say only time will tell how things work out.

Contributing Writer Aimee Risteen can be contacted at: [email protected]


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