More people are coming to USM. That’s a good thing.

The University failed to handle the on-campus housing situation responsibly. That’s a bad thing.

Early last week there were 300 students forced to live in triples. That’s almost 20 percent of the on-campus population packed into 12 by 18 rooms three at a time. No room for TVs. No room for computers. No room for clothes. And no room for privacy.

The idea of forced-triples isn’t new. There is overcrowding every year. But it’s no secret that more and more students are coming to live on-campus. The numbers have been rising consistently for years.

The University can blame no one for this year’s major overcrowding problem but itself.

It should have never approved hundreds of housing applications it knew it didn’t have room for.

The decision makers failed to plan for the area’s major housing crunch. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize if there’s no place for students to live off campus, most who say they’re going to live on campus really will.

And the University’s attempt to reimburse students is weak at best.

The school will reimburse students 30 percent of their housing bill if they’re stuck in a triple for the entire month of September.

But students who are forced into a triple for just a few weeks get nothing.

A student pays $2,762 a year to live in a regular double on the Gorham campus. That’s a little over $10 a day.

If a student pays for a double and gets a triple, he should be reimbursed regardless of how long he’s there.

If you live in a triple for three weeks you should get $200 back, no questions asked. If you were there for 2 days, take $20.

Students shouldn’t have to bear the costs of the University’s poor planning.

Portland Hall

– who are these people?

The overcrowding situation at Portland Hall is a little more complex. Besides having several forced triples, there is an unusual mix of people.

Most of the students living in the USM-owned building don’t even go to USM.

Portland Hall houses students from Southern Maine Technical College, Maine College of Art, adding Andover College this year.

Just 125 of the 305 students living in Portland Hall go to USM, according to Craig Hutchinson, vice president of Student Development.

Officials say their hands are tied because they’ve already signed housing contracts with the other schools.

Here’s my question: Why sign contracts to allow students from other schools to stay in a USM dorm when overcrowding might be a problem?

It’s not like Portland’s 2 percent vacancy rate gives students a lot of other options. Maybe school officials figured students would find an open bed at the Preble Street Resource Center.

Quite simply the University failed to make its own students a priority.

Students from other schools will live in Portland Hall at least until next spring. And as has been the pattern for the last 10 years, officials will likely sign a similar contract next year.

It’s time officials take a serious look at this housing situation and do what’s best for USM students.


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