- Associated Press - Friday, April 5, 2019

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri is hunting for more campus housing just two years after it was forced to idle some residence halls after protests over race had sent enrollment plummeting.

Between 5,200 and 5,400 incoming freshmen are expected in the fall, according to university spokesman Christian Basi. While it’s more than 1,000 students short of the record set before the 2015 protests, it’s a massive spike since fewer than 4,200 first-time students enrolled in the fall of 2017. That’s when seven residence halls were temporarily taken out of service. All but one of them reopened last fall, and the seventh is being used for office space.

To house the anticipated freshmen surge, the university is looking for space in private housing developments, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. On Thursday, the Board of Curator’s Finance Committee approved adding prices for that leased space to room options for the fall, a move expected to be ratified when the full board meets next week.

“Things are looking so good in terms of enrollment that we are planning, and want to be ready, to use extended campus options like we have in the past,” Basi said.

The estimates are based on the number of applications that have been accepted and the prospective students who have paid their deposits.

The university made national headlines in 2015 when long-simmering complaints from black student groups about racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white flagship campus ignited protests. More than 30 black football team members said they wouldn’t play until the university’s president was removed.

In the end, university system President Tim Wolfe resigned and Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin stepped down and took another job with the university.

Overall enrollment, which this year is below 30,000 for the first time since 2007, is expected to slightly decline again as the large pre-protest class of 2014 begins to graduate this spring. There were 7,480 seniors enrolled last fall, according to MU Institutional Research data, and past enrollment trends indicate there will be about 6,500 in the fall.

“We are very excited about the numbers we are seeing and I think that this showcases a couple of things,” Basi said.

President Mun Choi and Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, who took office in 2017, have worked to expand scholarships, lower overall costs and, with the help of a national marketing campaign, sought to rebuild campus numbers. Average housing and dining costs were cut an additional 2 percent for next fall and many students are saving substantially on books by using open-source and online products, Basi said.

He said leadership has been “laser-focused on affordability.”


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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