Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UNCW has more students than beds as fall semester approaches

UNCW will need to house students in Terrapin Hall and other dorms’ office and common room areas due to an influx in enrollment. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — Incoming students at UNCW may get even closer to their fellow undergrads than expected. 

READ MORE: UNCW plans to tear down oldest dorm on campus

The university will need to utilize overflow housing this fall to honor its housing contracts. At Thursday’s board of trustees meeting, Executive Director of Housing and Residency Life Kevin Meaney reported there are currently 5,294 housing contracts, while there are only 5,049 beds available across UNCW’s residence halls. 

The extra 245 first-year students will be housed in the dorms’ common areas and office areas, where there’s space for three to four residents. Double and triple rooms have enough space to add an extra bed. Assignments are based on how early the applicants submitted housing requests. 

According to Meaney, these students have been notified of the situation and “are fine with it.”

While freshmen and sophomores (since fall 2021) are required to reside on campus, Meaney said upperclassmen could be released from their housing contracts upon request. Then sophomores will be moved into the freed units. 

The university is also offering to buy out housing contracts for local students, who have the choice of on-campus housing or residing with their legal guardians in New Hanover, Pender or Brunswick counties. When board of trustee members asked how much the university was offering, Meaney clarified they were giving $1,000 credits to offset items like tuition or meal plans. Out of 100 students, only five took the offer. 

The overflow issue also delayed 115 housing assignments for students that submitted applications in May and June. The last batch of waiting students received notice Monday on where they will live, three weeks before move-in, scheduled August 18 and August 19. 

Meaney attributed the overflow to a much larger incoming class than expected. 

Earlier in the meeting, Associate Provost for Student Engagement Cynthia Demetriou revealed the class of 2027 was 7% over Chancellor Aswani Volety’s 2,500 goal. After enrollment came in 100 students under goal last school year, university leadership was tasked with increasing it by that much and more this year, shooting for the 2,500 to 2,700 students range for the incoming freshmen.

The university had pursued rapid growth under former Chancellor Jose Sartarelli, who led UNCW from 2015 to 2022. The university has averaged 500 additional students each year, making it the fastest growing in the state. 

When Volety took up the post last July, he indicated the university would continue to grow, but he wanted to pursue expansion sustainably. 

“It’s also a balance between pragmatism and what is possible — looking at the funding, how much money is coming and how we offer the support to students,” Volety said in an interview last year. “So, first and foremost, as long as we are able to provide meaningful education experiences for students, and provide them with the wraparound services they need, then I’m OK. If that is suffering, then we really need to take a pause and see how we do.” 

In recent years, the university has put resources toward infrastructure supporting the college’s growth, including a multi-story parking deck, a new dining hall, and four new residence halls geared toward freshmen and sophomores.

For first and second-year students required to live on campus, yearly costs range from $6,580 to $9,688, with required meal plans starting at $2,000 per semester. 

UNCW also demolished its University Apartments after the buildings faced significant damage from 2018’s Hurricane Florence. Galloway Hall, the university’s oldest dormitory, was also marked for demolition earlier this year. 

Although many of the overflow students are expected to remain in overflow spaces throughout the fall semester, the number of those affected may decrease as final enrollment numbers become clear.

Reach out to Brenna Flanagan at

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