Hundreds of UW-La Crosse students live in extended housing

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse freshman Thomas Thell doesn’t have just one roommate. He has three.

“It’s been really fun. I enjoy the room. My roommates are fun,” he said. “I got an email saying I was going to be in a four-person room, so I was surprised, but I was kind of excited.”

This semester, the living situation is a bit crowded for many UW-La Crosse students. More than 900 of them are living in what’s considered extended housing on campus.

First-year students are required to live on campus if they’re not living with their families. The need for extended housing has been there for decades, but Residence Life assistant director Lisa Weston said more students have had to use it over the years, and the campus has to get creative finding solutions.

“We house everyone they admit,” Weston said.

Some 2,112 students make up this year’s freshmen class, and adding in new transfer students and upperclassmen who want to live in dorms, UW-L Residence Life must house 3,441 students.

“I think the good news is students want to be here and we want them here,” Weston said.

The bad news is it’s hard to find room for them.

“(We) definitely (have) more than enough to fill another residence hall if we had one,” Weston said.

Weston said 210 students are living in extended housing in the traditional residence halls this year, which means students such as Thell are living in rooms not originally meant to be dorms, or with three people in dorms designed for two.

“It’s tight quarters, but our students make it work,” Weston said.

That 210 figure doesn’t count the 700 students living in the new Eagle Hall, where the double rooms are bigger, but are occupied by three people.

Weston said according to assessments, students in extended housing they do as well in school as others.

Those in extended housing in the traditional halls get a housing credit, and students living with three in double rooms in Eagle Hall pay less.

“While it’s not ideal for us either, our hope is sometime down the road, we have another residence hall we can put some students in,” Weston said. “Right now, that’s not in the books, so we punt and we make it work the way we have for the last 20 years.”

Chancellor Joe Gow said UW-L would like to build an additional residence hall, but has run into roadblocks trying to borrow money from the state. He also said the requirement that first-year students live on campus is unlikely to change.

By the end of the fall semester, Weston said students in extended housing in traditional halls get the chance to move into a standard room for the spring semester, when occupancy is lower.

In the meantime, Thell isn’t planning to leave his nontraditional dorm room.

“No, I kinda like it here,” he said.