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Area colleges facing housing crunch for coming school year

Student populations at two area University of Wisconsin schools continue to grow which is resulting in a housing crunch for dorms.

Because registration has just been completed at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls officials do not have a final count for the coming year, but they are looking at a record number of incoming students.

"We are anticipating another record enrollment at around 1,300 freshmen," said Mark Kinders, UW-River Falls' spokesman.

Last year the university had 2,503 students requesting dorm space, but only 2,298 beds available.

According to Kinders there were about 150 students living in dorm common spaces for the first semester, but as other students either dropped out or graduated they were moved into rooms.

The UW-System requires all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus but because of the need for space some get waivers.

"We already exempt those who live near the campus -- such as River Falls and Hudson," Kinders said.

"We are looking at expanding that area out a bit," he added.

Kinders also said that the university asks that juniors and seniors live off-campus.

One thing that will help ease the crunch in the near future at UW-River Falls is an expansion of the George R. Fields South Fork Suites residency hall, which will add 240 beds.

"We got legislative approval this year for the expansion," Kinders said.

By 2011, Kinders noted, the university expects to have 2,538 beds available, but they will still be short by about 170.

He added that demand for space on campus remains high because some juniors and seniors prefer to live on campus even though they are not required to do so.

UW-River Falls is in a rowth area and that presents a challenge to university planners, according to Kinders.

"We spend a lot of time planning for growth both in our dorms and in our classrooms," Kinders said.

UW-Stout will also be seeing a large freshman class this year.

According to Joel Helms, UW-Stout's assistant director for admissions, the school had a goal of 1,525 students. But now they predict the class will be around 1,600.

Housing officials with UW-Stout report that they currently have contracts for 3,200 students who want to live in the dorms there for the coming year.

"That number changes daily because of people canceling and other people asking for dorm rooms,' said Scott Griesbach, UW-Stout housing director.

He says the university will take a variety of steps to accommodate all students who want to live on campus.

These steps include tripling up rooms and using floor lounges and basement rooms.

"It will not be necessary for the university to house students in Menomonie hotels or motels," Greisbach said.

Unlike UW-River Falls, UW-Stout will not be seeing any additional dorm space. In fact they will be losing one of their older dorms.

"In 2009-10, we will be adding a new dining hall and then we will be tearing down one of our older dorms," Greisbach said.