With the start of the fall semester next week, Minot State University officials are scrambling to address a housing shortage for students and staff.
Currently Minot State University president David Fuller is anticipating there will be a 10 percent decline in student numbers this fall. At recent meetings, the drop from fall 2010 to fall 2011 has ranged from 7 to 12 percent. He will know more after the first weeks of classes, but University of North Dakota personnel told him to expect a 10 percent drop based on what happened at UND following the 1997 flood in Grand Forks.
That could add up to a deficit of more than $1 million in this year's budget, depending on what the enrollment drop is. During Wednesday's convocation, Fuller will ask faculty and staff to help the university tighten its belt. For instance, classes that have fewer than 5 or 6 students will likely be dropped from the schedule or combined with other sections. Fuller also said parking is likely to be at a premium this year, so he will ask faculty and staff to consider carpooling and take other measures to reduce the traffic on campus.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Minot State University is putting up temporary housing to help house students and staff. The housing units are being placed on the west side of the campus.
At the same time, Fuller said many good things continue to happen at the university, which was undamaged by this summer's flood, and he must balance the continued growth of programs on campus along with the needs of students and faculty who have been affected.
A severe housing shortage is causing some of the concern.
Many MSU students and faculty lived in houses or apartments in the valley, close to campus, and lost their homes due to the flooding. Fuller said there are 120 faculty and staff members that either lost their homes or were temporarily displaced and it has been a challenge to find places for them to stay. One new hire, who has a pet dog, has had no luck finding housing in Minot or the surrounding area. He had been staying temporarily at Crane Hall with the dog, but Monday was the last day he was allowed to stay there, said Fuller.
The university has hired Rob Anderson as a special assistant to the president/ombudsman to handle flood-related questions related to housing, assistance and other issues and to serve as an advocate for staff and students.
There are 661 available beds in the university residence halls, all filled, and 809 applications for housing. In response, the university obtained a low interest loan to purchase 10 Olympic housing units, similar to those that have been used during a student housing shortage at Williston State College. Each unit will house 10 students in bunkbed style arrangements. Two of those units have been erected west of the Gordon B. Olson Library and the others are being installed. They are also 90 percent full, even before all of them have been installed.
Fuller said the university has also purchased eight efficiency apartments near campus for faculty without housing to stay in. Those are already filled and 10 people are on a waiting list.
The university has utilized every inch of available space in the dorms, eliminating single rooms and, as at Lura Manor, turning some rooms into triple occupancy rooms. Lounges have been turned into temporary dorm rooms.
Fuller said it's likely the university will ask for additional funding from the state, but he doesn't know how much at this point. He has been in touch with state legislators and with Federal Emergency Management Association officials.
The university also recently hired William Chew as its first superintendent of campus security and safety and will add other security personnel. Fuller said a move to an internal security department supplemented by contract security was planned prior to the flood. It will allow the university to provide a 24-hour security presence on campus and assistance such as escorts from one location to another. Fuller said MSU continues to be very safe, but there is increased being crime reported in Minot, such as increased burglaries. The university will also be installing blue light emergency call boxes on campus, which is a part of the university's long-range plan.