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Big freshman class overflowing UWRF dorms, classrooms and cafeterias

Freshmen Alyssa Lensing, left, Clarinda Yarish and Brielle Bjork stand together in their extended housing dorm room in May Hall at UWRF on Sept. 19, 2017. Falcon News Service

The UW-River Falls class of 2020 is the largest in eight years, with a preliminary count of 1,325 students. About 100 of them are lounge lizards — and not by choice.

Due to over-enrollment in the dorms, they're temporarily living in "extended housing," which is typically a student lounge that has been converted into a dorm room to house six people.

"It's different because you have to keep it in your mind that you're leaving at some point," said Mahlie Troy, a freshman living in extended housing in May Hall. "So you get comfortable, but you can't get too comfortable, 'cause you know you have to go at some point, and it's stressful because you don't know when you're leaving."

When she found out she was going to live in extended housing, she wasn't sure what to expect, she said.

"I was scared. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, it's going to be like a group home. There's going to just be a whole line of beds and just a whole bunch of people,'" Troy said.

But the experience hasn't been too bad, and she's going to miss her temporary roommates, she said.

"It's been really nice actually," she said.

The bigger freshman class is a nice problem to have, and it's not just confined to the dorms, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman said.

"We grow, and it not only means we have more students in the resident halls, more students on meal plans, but more students in the classrooms," Heinselman said. "Your freshman class grows and you have two options: You offer more sections, or you expand the enrollment in each section. Well, you need larger classrooms to do that."

Traditionally, UWRF offers class sizes of about 25 to 30 students for every one instructor, and the classrooms are generally designed accordingly. There are larger classrooms on campus, but due to construction in Rodli Hall, some of these are currently unavailable.

The solution has been to add more sections of classes. In order to do this, UWRF has hired more adjunct professors.

Another problem on campus is long lines in the cafeteria at lunch time. Upperclassman know this is always a problem at the start of a new semester. Within a few weeks, everyone gets adjusted to the rhythm of their schedules, and lunch goers will see shorter wait times.

About 100 more students signed up for on-campus housing than there were open rooms available for them. Residence Life staff monitored the number of students coming in over the summer and realized that they were going to have to go into extended housing.

"All summer long we were pretty busy managing those numbers and occupancy," said Karla Thoennes, director of residence life.

Currently, students are living in extended housing in Hathorne, Grimm, McMillan, May and Stratton halls.

As of 2016-2017 school year UWRF had 2,603 permanent beds on campus. The extended housing plan allows for more beds to be available but only temporarily. The numbers haven't been reevaluated this year, but in the past, 195 temporary extended housing beds were designated.

Another option to create more space is for some resident assistants to take on a roommate instead of living alone, as is traditional.

As the semester proceeds, students drop out and no-shows are accounted for, allowing students in extended housing to move into permanent rooms.

Then all of the dorm residents can have their lounges back — for chatting and napping rather than dreaming of a room of their own.

Republished with the permission of Falcon News Service.