For the second year in a row, the University of Miami is temporarily housing students in the Holiday Inn near campus, on US-1.
Approximately 140 students, compared to only 30 last year, are residing in hotel rooms across the street from the university.
Jon Baldessari, Assistant Director of Residence Halls for Marketing, Assignments and Conference Housing, gave several reasons for the University’s need to turn to the Holiday Inn to temporarily house students.
Not only has the University done a better job of retaining students recently, said Baldessari, but record numbers of continuing students reapplied for on-campus housing during the March and April sign-ups, leaving the Department of Residence Halls with more people than they can accommodate.
The freshman classes of the past two years have also been much larger than normal, with more and more students coming from across the country and world rather than from within Miami-Dade County, Baldessari said.
Three years ago the University also lost 350-400 beds when apartments were demolished at the new arena construction site.
No freshmen students have been placed in the Holiday Inn. However, nearly 80 are temporarily living in double rooms with resident assistants.
These students will soon be placed in permanent assignments, and most should be relocated within the next week, according to the department of Residence Halls.
Those living at the Holiday Inn are mostly continuing students whose previous living arrangements fell through or domestic and international transfer students.
Baldessari stressed that these are temporary assignments and that students will be brought back on campus in groups. The University’s contract with the hotel lasts only through the fall semester.
This temporary solution is “costing us much more than the students’ contributions,” Baldessari noted.
The costs of running a shuttle service from 7 a.m. through 12 a.m., providing local telephone service and dial-up connections to Holiday Inn students and renting the rooms at a corporate rate comprise a “pretty significant investment, but our best alternative,” he said.
Two Resident Assistants also live at the Holiday Inn, and programs have been provided to the students just as if they were housed on campus.
Other benefits, like daily maid service, access to the hotel’s outdoor pool and laundry service lead some students to feel that this quick-fix is a blessing in disguise.
“I really like living there,” said sophomore psychology major Liz Ariniello. “It’s not as social as the dorms, but I have my own bathroom that gets cleaned, and I definitely don’t want to move back to the towers.”
A few transfer students commented that they might not be getting the campus living experience that they would have if they lived on UM grounds.
Although the displaced students are enjoying their dormitory vacation, they anticipate moving onto campus and moving back into campus social life which they feel they have yet to experience.
To accommodate the extraordinarily large number of on-campus residents, study lounges in the Stanford and Hecht towers have been converted into permanent dormitories, at least for the next several years.
“We went ahead and made some significant modifications,” said Baldessari, “and added benefits, like moveable new furniture, desks, carpeting and cable modems.”
These changes were based on student feedback.
The University is planning construction of new off-campus apartments between San Amaro Drive and Red Road and should be breaking ground later this year.
These apartments will add about 1000 new beds within two to three years.