Staff Editorial: UH should increase resources, not enrollment
The University’s enrollment has increased just short of 1,000 students from the last academic year. While enrollment has gone up, vital resources needed to support this growing student body have either stagnated or decreased in number.
Necessities such as on-campus housing, available parking and dining options are greatly outstripped by the University’s student population. This problematic ratio of students to resources leads to inevitable shortages.
The University needs to adjust its enrollment to suit the resources that it has available.
The University of Houston has the most beds out of any college in the state of Texas, with eight residential living facilities for students to stay in while they are taking classes. This is despite the demolition of the Quadrangle in the Spring 2017, which resulted in the loss of 407 bed spaces that have yet to be replaced.
As of Friday, 160 bed spaces were available across campus between the remaining eight complexes, said executive director of Student Housing and Residential Life Don Yackley.
However, not all students are eligible to live in just any of these available spaces.
Certain residences, such as the University Lofts, require tenants to be a specific age or classification in order to move in. These requirements may serve as a barrier to students seeking on-campus housing.
In addition to restrictions on housing eligibility, the cost of housing may also prevent some students from being able to live on campus. Depending on the residence, the price of housing has increased anywhere from a couple hundred to several hundred dollars, based on a comparison of housing costs between the last academic year and the current one.
This significant increase in the price of housing options, compounded with the restrictions on available housing, shows that the University has a shortage of residential housing options that are available and attainable to all students.
Parking and Transportation Services declined to comment or provide information about the availability of parking on campus. However, those who oversee on-campus parking have made an effort to increase the number of available spaces.
Future plans for parking expansion include the construction of a new parking garage. However, this construction has the potential to have negative impact on parking availability while the garage is in progress.
In addition to the potential loss of parking availability in the future, the cost of parking has continued to increase. From the last academic year to the current one, the cost of some permits increased by up to $55, depending on the location.
It is a well-known fact that on-campus parking is not only expensive, but also a hassle. Parking will continue to be difficult as long as the University continues to admit a high volume of new students each year. The University needs to adjust enrollment to allow for parking to catch up with the growing student body.
Update 9/21: According to an email from Bob Browand, director of Parking and Transportation Services, there is expected to be a net surplus of 300 student parking spaces by Fall 2022.
However, the number of parking spaces on campus currently represents a decline from the parking availability seen at this time last year. This is a result of the construction of Garage 5, which resulted in the loss of 544 spaces beginning Fall 2018.
By the time Garage 8 is completed, making it the fourth new on-campus parking garage, there will be 26,698 parking spaces. In the email, Browand said this increase is expected to match the expected enrollment growth factor of 3 percent by Fall 2022.
The University has experienced a marked decrease in the number of available dining options on campus over the last year. This decrease has resulted in longer lines and wait times at the eating establishments that are currently operational.
After a brief reopening in the spring, the Student Center Satellite is again closed for renovation. The facility has not been in operation since the end of the last academic year. Its closing eliminates nine potential dining options for students looking for a place to eat.
The arrival of more food truck options on campus is intended to fill this gap, but does not provide enough hours and locations to balance out the closure of the Satellite.
The food trucks are present for only a few hours each day. The limited hours of operation may not align with students’ schedules and could prevent them from taking advantage of this service.
In addition to having limited hours, the food trucks only park in certain locations around campus. The location of the food trucks may be geographically problematic for some students, who don’t have the time to grab a bite to eat and make it to their next class on time.
The limited hours of operation and few locations make the food trucks into a nonviable option for certain students and fail to fill the gap in dining options left by the closure of the Satellite.
A shortage of dining options is not the only shortage that the University faces as a result of the outsized student population, which available resources cannot adequately support.
The University should be admitting only the number of students its resources can serve. Being more selective in its admissions process and keeping incoming classes small will allow UH to keep the student body proportional to its offerings.