If you thought choosing between a single or double room was tough, imagine the struggle for the Residence Admissions Office as they attempted to squeeze in 200 additional students this year into residence due to the high enrollment growth of the university.
Historically, McMaster has guaranteed residence space for students entering first year who meet the academic cut-off average. And while the 12 residence buildings on campus house 3,578 students, the large majority of whom are first years, enrollment growth and higher entrance averages have led to this capacity being exceeded by nearly 400 students in an earlier forecast.
To deal with these matters, Housing and Conference Services followed through on a contingency plan which alters traditionally large double rooms, and converts them into three-person units. Each unit has a loft bed on top, a desk and wardrobe underneath, thereby maximizing the workable space in the room.
“We are using what is called an Expanded Space Plan to create the equivalent of 200 extra bed spaces within residence to accommodate the overage. As for the other 200 students [of the 400 surplus], they often choose for whatever reason to not participate in the residence experience,” explained Kevin Beatty, director of Housing and Conference Services.
McMaster University has grown in popularity over the years as a site for higher-level education and innovation. The Class of 2020 is possibly the biggest year yet, with enrollment numbers estimated to be 14 percent above that of the year prior.
“The quality of McMaster’s teaching and learning and our reputation continues to attract more and more students to come here,” said Melissa Pool, the University Registrar.
While the numbers certainly do serve as a testimony for the quality of education McMaster offers, it also creates a tricky situation for the residences to deliver in terms of quality of living. “We did not want to diminish the student experience by just randomly assigning people rooms. We wanted to make sure it is our best effort to make [the rooms] as comfortable as possible,” said Beatty.
“We also spent a significant amount of money upgrading the furniture in the Expanded Space rooms. They have brand new furniture and brand new mattresses, so even though the students have a little less space to themselves, the living space is beautiful,” Beatty added.
While there are plans for a new building with student housing options to be complete by 2019, it is unlikely that all first-year students would be given guaranteed residence. The current system being used is an academic average cut-off of 81 per cent or higher to guarantee residence.
And while this may seem open to large deviations between years, the reality is that any change to the guaranteed residence cut-off average would require collaboration amongst all faculties. With programs and faculties all varying in their own acceptance averages, it is important to ensure a proper distribution of students from across all faculties living on residence.
This is certainly not the first time student rooms have been modified to accommodate more students. “A similar situation with the extended space plan was put in place in 2002 and 2011, and although the plan would be to return to the current occupancy level next year, we will watch the enrollment target and respond to it appropriately,” said Beatty.
“The key thing is that we do not sacrifice the quality of the student experience and we are able to deliver on an experience we think is important to students,” Beatty affirmed.