After seeing the confined spaces of the dorm rooms at orientation, MSU freshman Mara Lowe was incredibly anxious when she learned that an additional student would be joining her and her roommate in the fall.
Transitional housing presents first-year students with many challenges to overcome and adjustments to be made. However, Lowe said despite the initial concerns and worry, being in transitional housing has impacted her in a positive way.
“As crazy as it was, I did enjoy being in transitional housing,” said Lowe.
Lowe said although living with two roommates until Halloween was very stressful, but it was definitely a great learning experience in the end.
Transitional housing has been a problem at many different points throughout MSU’s history, although this past fall has been one of the most impactful, said Assistant Director for Residence Education and Housing Services?Charlie Thompson-Orsua.
Thompson-Orusa said a high rate of students returning to campus and large classes of incoming freshmen are the two main factors that contribute to the necessity for transitional housing.
Laura Cole, assistant manager of Michigan State’s Housing Assignments Office, said the number of students living in transitional housing rose from 798 in the fall of 2012, to 1,131 in the fall semester of 2013.
These figures represent all three individuals who make up each transitionally housed dorm room on campus, said Cole via email.
The university had a total of 262 rooms that were considered a temporary living situation in 2012, while 365 rooms were transitionally housed by the beginning of 2013, she said.
Thompson-Orsua said REHS communicates with the Office of Admissions every year to estimate how many incoming freshmen are expected.
“About 99 percent of first-year students live on campus,” he said. “The number of students they [the Office of Admissions] bring in is pretty much the number of students we bring into the halls.”
There was 8,034 incoming freshmen this past fall, compared to the 8,074 freshmen that arrived on campus in fall of 2012, Cole said.
Despite this slight decrease of incoming freshmen from 2012 , Cole said the fall semester of 2013 saw an increase of transitional housing cases due to the ongoing renovations of Butterfield and Landon residence halls that have made 700 rooms unavailable for use.
She said the increase in 2013 was predictable because there has been a steady growth of transitional housing cases over the past three years due to similar hall renovations on campus.
“Certainly there is some forecasting that can be done, but the numbers are always fluctuating,” said Thompson-Orsua. “We try to do the best we can to be aware of it.”
Taylor White, a student impacted by this temporary living situation, said this unexpected experience made her first month of school very challenging.
“It definitely lasted longer than I thought it would,” said White.
White said she never expected to be in transitional housing such a position for more than a month and the situation presented her with some challenges.
“You just want to settle in because everything is brand new, but you can’t completely do that,” said White.
Thompson-Orsua said all students are generally moved out of transitional housing by the middle or end of the first semester, although many residents voluntarily stay in their living situations because they have established strong friendships with their roommates or because they want to take advantage of the financial discount that is provided.
According to Brody Community Director Mina Utt, the dorm rooms are prorated, which means there is not one specific discount that all students receive.
She said students are reimbursed based on how much their room costs per night and how long they spent in transitional housing.
This past fall, 215 students were offered a new space to live, but they chose to remain in their original housing assignments, Cole said.
MSU student Garrett Patterson is one of the many residents who decided to continue living with his current roommates in transitional housing.
“I think it [transitional housing] impacted my overall experience in a really positive manner,” said Patterson.
He said having an additional roommate really helped his transition into college because it provided him with another person to rely on during the first few weeks of the semester.
“All three of us worked together at the beginning of the year, because we didn’t really know what to expect,” Patterson said.
He said that he enjoys his living situation, although one challenge is not having enough space when visitors arrive.
“We’ve never had an altercation about anything,” Patterson said. “Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices.”
Lauren Friebe, another MSU student who chose to remain in transitional housing, said this decision is something she would have never considered in the beginning of the year.
Friebe said she was extremely angry to find out that she was going to be sharing her room with another student, especially because she had already coordinated everything with her requested roommate.
She said although closet space still continues to be an issue, she gets along really well with her roommates and it has turned out to be a great experience.
“I’ve learned that you can become really good friends with people that are completely opposite of you,” Friebe said.
In addition to this lesson, Friebe said she learned to understand and accept that transitional housing is sometimes inevitable on campus, although she questions why MSU appears to welcome more students than the campus can comfortably fit into housing.
Ashley Chaney, REHS Director of Communications, said this notion that MSU admits an overabundance of students so that they can benefit financially is a misunderstanding.
She said MSU admits students based on an equation that takes into account the average number of students who either drop out or change their minds after starting classes, which is referred to as “the melt.”
Chaney said that although there is transitional housing almost every year, “the melt” generally takes care of the problem and students are returned to normal living conditions in a timely manner.
“We’re quick and efficient about breaking down these transitional rooms and getting people moved,” she said.
Chaney said it is also important to note that although transitional housing isn’t exactly favorable, it is necessary in order to provide MSU students with equal resources and opportunities.
“We have so much data that shows the impact of students who live on campus, and how that positively impacts their experience,” she said. “Our goal, first and foremost, is to make sure that students have that foundation, especially freshmen.”
Chaney said although transitional housing could be avoided by making some students live off campus until rooms become available, MSU absolutely guarantees housing for all freshman because of such statistics that show the correlation between on-campus housing and academic success.
Cole said in her email that MSU does not expect to have any transitional housing cases next year due to the completion of both Butterfield and Landon residence halls.