Space in the dorms is going to be even tighter than usual come fall semester as a record-sized freshman class moves into on-campus housing.
"We are expecting it to be one of, if not the largest, incoming freshman classes at Penn State," Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig said.
As of Monday, 8,422 undergraduate applicants have accepted offers of admission for the fall semester at University Park -- an increase of more than 1,500 students compared to fall 2005.
Not everyone who accepts an offer of admission actually shows up, and some students tend to drop out in the first few weeks of class, Diane Andrews, Office of Residence Life director, said.
Andrews estimated that after this typical "melt," 900 to 1,000 more students than last year will actually be living in the residence halls.
The influx of freshmen has spurred university officials to make changes on campus.
Kathy Krinks, assistant director of Housing and Food Services, said that in an effort to free up more space, incoming freshmen who live within commuting distance were offered $500 worth of meal points last week as an incentive to live at home.
Plans to close down Runkle Hall and renovate it into suites have been put on hold; the building will remain open during fall semester to accommodate more freshmen.
The scheduled closing of Runkle Hall partially accounted for the decreased amount of housing contracts extended to upperclassmen in February, when 1,267 students who applied for on-campus housing were denied contracts.
All freshmen who do not already live within commuting distance are required to live on campus, so housing staff is finding ways to fit more students into the existing space.
"We have converted some of our rooms that were triples a couple years ago back into triples," Krinks said.
Primarily in Simmons, McElwain, Thompson and Hamilton Halls, some single rooms will become small doubles, and large suites with private bathrooms will accommodate four students instead of two.
More supplemental housing is also being created.
"Students typically like supplemental housing, so they'll be in there for the whole semester," Andrews said.
Krinks said that, like early last year, some resident assistants living in double rooms would be required to take on roommates.
Last fall, some RAs received roommates temporarily, but this year may be a different story.
"This year we were told that we might have a roommate for the entire year," said Stephen Addeo (senior-integrative arts), an RA this fall. "I am not happy about that at all."
Erica Yates (freshman-psychology) said she might not feel comfortable being roommates with an RA.
"I think it would be weird because you wouldn't feel free," she said. "I wouldn't really like it."
Mahir Desai (freshman-finance) said it depends on the RA.
"I don't think it would be that bad," he said. "My RA is pretty cool."
Anne Rohrbach, director of admissions services and evaluation, said that while the Office of Undergraduate Admissions deliberately set out to increase the size of the freshman class, the number of qualified students accepted exceeded their goal of 7,000.
Rohrbach said admissions standards were not dropped to meet enrollment goals.
"We haven't had to go to a lower profile," Rohrbach said. "We had 13 percent more applications system-wide."
Kendig said the increased class size is unlikely to have any effect on tuition one way or another.
"Tuition is more a function of state appropriation rather than the amount of students enrolling in Penn State," Kendig said.
The record freshman class may also have an impact on the long-term housing situation.
"We're concerned about the high freshman class this year because next year as sophomores they're also going to want housing," Krinks said.
In addition to University Park, all of the commonwealth campuses except for one have seen an increase in enrollment as well.