Student support for dorms at UMass remains high

UMass dorm study: Shows most students would prefer to live on campusUMass dorm study: Shows most students would prefer to live on campusSixty percent of all UMass-Boston students – and 70 percent of students living in Dorchester -- are interested in on-campus housing, according to a campus survey released to the Reporter.

About 1,700 students, many of them now living off-campus and renting, took the 97-question survey, which cost the university $10,500. Questions were meant to gauge the interest of students in housing; to find out how easy or hard it has been to find off-campus housing; to see if students have visited Harbor Point and Peninsula Apartments; to learn where students already live and how much they would be willing to pay for rent; and to determine the length of their current commutes.

“I think this is a significant step because it is a highly in-depth study of the demand,” said Patrick Day, UMass-Boston’s vice chancellor of student affairs. “It moves you past the early stages and into, ‘Okay, let’s start having more conversations internally.’ ”

The analysis of the demand showed there was interest in 881 beds for undergraduates and 272 beds for graduate students, according to the survey, which had a margin of error of 2.37 percent. A university task force involved in master planning efforts will be weighing the survey results over the next two months. Out of 13 peer institutions across the nation, UMass-Boston remains the only one without on-campus housing, UMass officials say.

The prospect of dorms has drawn controversy over the years, as some community members have asserted that on-campus housing would change the character of the commuter-dominated campus. But school officials have maintained that the number of students in dorms would number 2,000 out of the 15,000 enrolled when the housing is built down the road. The focus remains on adding an academic building, a science complex, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on the Study of the U.S. Senate, they say.

A focus group of students, conducted as part of the survey, showed that they were scattered throughout the city and that they found it difficult and time-consuming to find affordable housing. They also expressed concerns with some of the housing available at Harbor Point and Peninsula apartments next to the campus, noting issues like security, the lack of student-friendly leases, and high rent rates.

Day said what struck him about the survey was how many students – 876 of them – are living off-campus and paying rent. “One of the notions was that everybody’s living at home,” he said.