Patrick Lawlor, Associate Editor in Chief
Merrimack College is changing the way it provides housing to undergraduates, offering lotteries for both off- and on-campus living and planning to open two new residence halls over the next three years.
President Christopher E. Hopey’s Agenda for Distinction calls for an eventual undergraduate enrollment of 3,000; this fall, Merrimack will have 2,300 undergraduates, up from 2,100. The expansion of housing will be concurrent with the growth in the student body, Hopey said.
Applications to Merrimack rose 53 percent from last year, Hopey said last week.
Currently, nearly 80 percent of undergraduates live on campus, according to the college website.
The new housing plan goes into effect this fall. Under the plan, all freshman and sophomores will be guaranteed on-campus housing; juniors and seniors, however, have to enter a lottery if they would like to live on campus. If they wish to live in off-campus housing that Merrimack plans to acquire, they must enter an earlier lottery.
According to Hopey, the on-campus housing lottery will take place in April and the off-campus lottery will be earlier.
According to Sara Hicks, Merrimack’s director of residence life, the college is looking into many different options for off-campus housing, and renting nearby hotel rooms is a possibility.
While students may still live off-campus in apartments they rent themselves, starting this fall Merrimack will acquire off-campus housing units and rent them to interested students.
“The off-campus housing lottery will take place first, on March 28 — this will help us see how many students want to live off campus,” Hicks said.
“The on-campus housing (lottery) will take place in April. We will put a hold on the online room selection process and students will submit preference forms to our office. This will allow us to keep groups of friends together, even if they don’t get their building of preference,” she said.
“So to ensure we can have students live with or near their friend group, we will manage this instead of doing it online, where we would not be able to slide groups over and assist with block housing,” she said.
Many times athletes have early morning practice, and because of that college officials are discussing whether athletes will be given preference for on-campus housing.
Further, all students in Merrimack-controlled housing “will be on a meal plan of some sort next year,” even those who live in the off-campus apartments, said Hicks, who is working with Sodexo to develop meal plans suitable for even those who will be living in the apartments on campus with full kitchens.
“We have a lot of things to work out, but every student is going to be taken care of,” said Fr. Ray Dlugos, vice president of mission and student affairs.
The Student Government Association voted to support the new housing plan. Students are encouraged to voice their opinions to SGA on policies such as letting a sophomore or junior join with seniors and entering the housing lottery as a group. Rules and regulations regarding housing details are brought to SGA each year.
SGA meets every Tuesday at 5 pm. Students can also email opinions to SGA@merrimack.edu
Some students have wondered if moving parts of student body off-campus would inhibit the close-knit community of Merrimack. Dlugos disputed that notion. “There comes a point in the college experience to spread out and gain more confidence and skills,” he said. “When those students come back, that only enriches the community.”
The college will also help those who don’t want to live in college-controlled housing. Merrimack has posted a job opening on its website for an off-campus housing coordinator, to help students secure off-campus housing on their own.
If everything goes as planned, college officials expect to open a new residence hall in the fall of 2013, and a second new residence hall in 2015.
As part of the housing changes, Merrimack is also changing on-campus parking rules for students.
- Juniors, seniors and graduate students living on campus can enter a parking decal lottery.
- Juniors, seniors and graduate students living in college-controlled off-campus housing will be guaranteed a parking decal and a designated parking location.
- Students not living in college-controlled housing can obtain a parking decal on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Freshmen and sophomores will not be able to bring a car to campus.
The college is also exploring transportation options for those without cars, including the possibility of a ZipCar location on or near campus. ZipCar allows annual dues-paying members to rent cars by the hour.