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Will that be residence, or a free PC?

Wilfrid Laurier 80 rooms short
Offers $2,500 in goods to vacate

Toronto Star - July 16, 2003
by Louise Brown — Education Reporter

Sorry Frosh, but would you mind trading that residence room for free burgers, books and a Blackberry?

An overbooked Wilfrid Laurier University is hoping to lure about 80 first-year students into giving up their coveted residence beds by dangling a $2,500 prize of food, textbooks and computers, including a trendy hand-held Blackberry e-mail-cellphone gizmo.

This is a one-time incentive to ease the double-cohort pressure having on campus housing. If not enough students take up the offer, Laurier officials say they will have to find more housing because they have promised a residence bed for every first-year student.

And it's the latest example of how Ontario's universities are scrambling to make room for the largest incoming class of teens in history — more than 71,000 — as the last students in the old five-year high school program finish alongside the first of the new four-year grads.

From adding bunk beds to buying hotels, renting apartments and, in one case, even a seniors' home, universities are seeking new ways to provide housing.

When 500 more students than expected accepted offers from Laurier in Waterloo, the mid-sized campus added 200 more beds by turning many single rooms into doubles, and rented apartments for about 220 more. But it still faces an extra 80 students, whom it is now trying to entice into moving off campus.

"We're flattered so many students have chosen Laurier; it's a nice problem to have," said David McMurray, the university's assistant vice-president of student services. "In the end, cancellations may take care of those 80 extra students anyway, but we don't want to make double-cohort families wait until the last minute to solve the problem."

To students who agree to give up residence, Laurier will give a credit for $500 on the campus food plan, a credit for $500 toward textbooks and a computer worth about $1,500, either a laptop, an upgraded desktop computer or a Blackberry, said McMurray. Letters about the deal were mailed last Thursday.

Residence costs between $3,200 and $5,000 for eight months, said housing director Mike Belanger, and an apartment in Waterloo would cost about $4,000.

Among other campus bids to find overflow housing:

  • McMaster University in Hamilton has added more triple rooms in residence to handle about 100 more new students than expected.

  • For the first time ever, the University of Ottawa has had to rent rooms off campus to help accommodate 540 more students than expected. It has rented a new 100-bed building originally designed as a seniors' residence; 64 more beds in the Quality Hotel; 60 beds in the Horizon Tower apartment building and 40 beds in a nearby community college.

  • Overflow students at the U of T's downtown campus will stay in the new 1,100-bed residence in the former Colony Hotel at 89 Chestnut St. beside city hall.

  • Carleton University in Ottawa is renting five floors of a Travelodge hotel.

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