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PUBLISHED: A Deeper Insight into the Housing Dilemma On Campus

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

The abridged story can be found here on Loma Beat.

Young Dorm, PLNU

PLNU's Young Dorm on Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, at sunset.

Point Loma Nazarene University dorms were once enviable. Upperclassman dorm, Young Hall, sits on a private section of Sunset Cliffs State Park, and the nearest non-university residence boasting the same feature of living right on Sunset Cliffs is over half a mile away (and a multi-million dollar price tag). With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, unobstructed sunsets and exclusive beach access for PLNU students, outside appearances live up to its consistent ranking in the top five of America’s Most Scenic Universities.

PLNU dorms in the past two years, however, have been a topic of debate amongst its new students.

Freshman study lounges in Hendricks and Klassen Hall have been converted into six- to eight-person dorm rooms, and former two-person rooms have been converted into three-person rooms. While 24% of PLNU students polled “satisfied” with current housing conditions in an anonymous campus survey, yet another 29% have polled “extremely unsatisfied,” while none polled “extremely satisfied.”

The overwhelming response to students’ dissatisfaction is due to the much larger class size that had been admitted in the last two years.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Shannon Hutchison-Caraveo says that the new number of students should not be taken out of context due to yield, the annual number of admitted students who actually choose PLNU, and many factors in the higher education marketplace. “Any college that’s looking to get the same number of freshmen each year has to admit more freshmen to get that number, because of yield,” says Hutchison-Caraveo. As for higher education market fluctuations, she describes how the growing number of options makes a more competitive market for PLNU and affects yield annually.

“A student who would have applied to PLNU and five other colleges a few years ago is now applying to PLNU and ten other colleges,” she says, “which means each of us…have a lower chance to be ‘chosen’ by the student,” she says.

In 2017, PLNU admitted 2,229 first-year applicants and 387 transfers, after a projected yield of 27 percent and 50 percent respectively. The admitted students who matriculated ended up being 619 first-years and 193 transfers, making the yield-to-matriculation result within two percent of their projected estimate and a fulfillment of the total student goal. This means based on student statistics, the amount of admitted students is meeting yield goals if not exceeding them.

According to Scott Shoemaker, Associate VP of Enrollment and Retention for PLNU, previous years have seen a steady decrease in yield. “In the previous 5 years our yield for first year admits had slipped from 31 in 2013 to 27 [percent] last year,” says Shoemaker. “Given that slide of roughly 1 percent per year, we predicted 26 percent (620 students) for our entering class in 2018, a reasonable assumption in this market.” The actual for 2018 was 657 students enrolled out of 2,394 admitted; a 27.44 percent matriculation.

Although the influx of new students reflects a marketing success for PLNU as an institution, the majority of its students remain unhappy with the cost of living on and off campus as well as lack of housing to accommodate the amount of students that have been accepted.

The San Diego Union Tribune marks the average San Diego County rent at $1,187 monthly. One semester at PLNU costs $5,085 for room and board with the cheapest meal plan at 15 meals per week, and mandatory student leave during Christmas and Spring breaks. Where PLNU campus boasts beach and school access that the majority of off-campus housing can’t provide for with the reported average monthly rent, some students find themselves focused more on the stresses of their immediate living environment instead.

“If [administrators] want to enroll more students than the campus should handle, they should ease up on the restrictions for living off campus, not cram three students into dorm rooms meant for two people,” says Senior Music and Business Administration major Evan Killeen. “If our administration wants the additional revenue of admitting so many more students, they should do so in a way that doesn't negatively affect students.”

Killeen’s take on PLNU’s housing accommodations is not an outlier. In an anonymous survey, just under half of current and former students opted to provide further insight, and all voluntary responses have reported a negative outlook on current conditions. Reasons range from “ineffective washing machines and fans in Flex that barely [produce] cold air,” to trouble with parking because, according to another, “surfers who are not students park in our lot,” and at least one other student who resorted to moving off campus due to her experience. Upon moving in, “it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in 20 years,” writes one anonymous responder. “The [summer] camps had destroyed it, and Res Life didn’t care. We even had mice in our room.”

Luckily for PLNU students and administrators, the high amount of students housed on campus can be seen as a wake-up call. Now as students learn to coexist in dorms and whatever housing San Diego has to offer, it also urges those in charge of on-campus housing to not only immediately provide for current students, but also prepare for a similar future for student satisfaction in the next couple of years.

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