By Elizabeth Weed / Full360 Producer & Editor
First-time freshmen may eagerly anticipate or dread moving into a dorm as they head to college. However, few expect to spend their first semester of college in a hotel.
But that is the reality for Shawn Cullen, a full-time freshman, who has been spending his first semester at a hotel with 30 other students in total. While his experience and the other students’ situations differ from the traditional freshmen experience, he noted some perks to hotel life.
“So far it’s been good. We have access to an indoor pool, kitchen, living room, game room, and breakfast every morning. The only downside to staying here is the wifi, and we have to use our own money for laundry as of right now.”Shawn Cullen
For many students, leaving home for college is the first significant step into adulthood. They wake up on a cool August morning and pour themselves a cup of coffee. The living room is unrecognizable, taken over by an entire life contained in stuffed bags and storage containers. Move-in day is right around the corner, marking the end of summer and the transition toward college life. Maybe their parents chuckle along the way to the airport or down the interstate as they tell stories of their own university haunts. The student looks out the window at the evolving scenery, imagining their own campus stories.
After a long trip, they finally make it. But instead of unloading into a dorm building, they are greeted by hotel staff.
University officials have stated that hotel living is not a permanent solution, and does not cost students more money.
“While the hotel arrangement costs the University additional funds, the students at the hotel are charged the standard rate for rooming on campus,” said Dr. Gloria Oikelome, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Delaware Valley University’s class of 2027 consists of 495 full-time freshmen, boasting the largest numbers seen since 2012 and an overall increase of 11% since 2022. For 15 of these freshmen and 15 transfer students, the influx resulted in them being placed in off-campus accommodations. According to the University, incoming freshman and returning students must submit their housing requests by certain deadlines. Post-deadline, officials from Student Housing look to alternative options in order to accommodate as many students as possible.
“DelVal is in a very positive position in that we are seeing increasing demand for our programs and the opportunities that experiential learning delivers. In the current environment of decreasing enrollment across many institutions, DelVal has had increases in incoming students for the past two years. This tells us that we are getting our message out to prospective students and their families, and this bodes well for our future. In the short term, it does create a tight housing situation.”Dr. Oikelome, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
To make the experience easier, the university offers an additional food option and some transportation options.
Students have the option to eat breakfast at the hotel, on campus, or at both locations, but they must travel to campus to use their selected meal plan for other meals. In addition, students who are housed at the hotel may bring cars. Many even organized carpools to campus to help each other. Those who do not have cars have the option of shuttle transportation through our community Doylestown DART service, and campus vans are available for students when the DART schedule does not accommodate their needs. Delaware Valley University noted that the use of their transportation options provided has been extremely minimal.
This isn’t the first time DelVal has had to resort to hotels to accommodate an overflow. In the past when DelVal experienced large freshmen classes, placing students in a hotel was the go-to, most recently occurring in 2015.
A local newspaper, The Intelligencer, covered the news in a 2015 article. But, has any change been implemented seven years later? In her report, the writer Freda Savana reported students making the best out of living in unconventional housing situations, triples in doubles, roommate groups in converted lounges, and hotel overflow.
At the time, previous president Joseph Brosman emphasized increased enrollment as a beneficial problem for the institution. He also expressed his understanding that overcrowding of students’ spaces is a detriment to student academia and well-being.
“We see the challenges of growth and we’ll deal with it expeditiously. We haven’t ruled anything out.”Joseph Brosman, 2015
But seven years later, students are still cramped into lounges, tripled or even quadrupled up in dorms meant to accommodate fewer students, and even housed off campus.
At this time, Delaware Valley University is still evaluating “multiple short-term and long-term options” in anticipation of larger enrollment classes, Oikelome said. Most notably, she said, the institution is developing a Strategic Enrollment Plan to better inform decisions about providing viable housing options for its students. In the short term, University leadership notifies students about housing deadlines in advance and prepares by identifying “flex housing” spaces on campus that can be modified into dorm rooms.
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