Honors students to occupy off-campus housing complex


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University of Iowa Honors student Claire Spyrison knows firsthand how full the Honors Program has become.

The freshman applied to live in Daum Hall — the UI’s all-Honors dorm — this year, but landed on a waiting list due to the large number of applicants. While Spyrison got into Daum about a month after she applied, a growing interest in the UI Honors program and housing has caused officials to explore some new options.

In August, some UI Honors students will move into off-campus housing leased by the university specifically for them. The move is in line with the university’s effort to increase community-based housing with living-learning communities.

The UI has signed a two-year, $760,560 lease with College View LLC for Centerstone Apartments, a complex that will house 114 students at 121/131 E. Davenport St. The building will be open to returning Honors students who lived in a residence hall this year and potentially some transfer students, said Von Stange, the director of University Housing and Dining. Each student will pay $7,200, excluding an optional meal plan, less than this year’s room and board rate.

Some students say they’re excited at the prospect.

“You get enough space away from RAs and regulations, but you’re still protected by University Housing,” UI freshman Annie Christenson said. “You don’t have to worry about your heating or electric bill, because it’s already covered.”

This is the second time the UI has leased an off-campus building to accomodate an influx of students hoping to live in residence halls. This year, roughly 160 students live in the Lodge, located nearly two miles off campus.

Officials have struggled with a growing interest in Honors housing after Daum couldn’t accommodate the number of applications. An Honors living-learning community was made available in Mayflower two years ago, but it will be discontinued next year because of low interest.

“Students were more interested in living close to campus rather than in a community,” said LaShelle Christensen, the Honors Program activities director.

She said it’s not yet clear whether there will be a need for more Honors living-learning communities in addition to Centerstone.

Honors staffers have also worked to create more programming, despite a decrease in funding amid state budget cuts. For the 2008-09 school year, there were 116 programs offered to students. So far this year, the program has held 162 activities.

Enrollment in the Honors program has increased over the past five years, though it varies by semester. Around 6,000 of the UI’s undergraduate students are in the Honors program.

With so many involved in the program, officials work to keep interest in activities high.

“We just try to be as creative as possible in order to keep the programs free or low cost,” Christensen said.

Christensen also said the new housing arrangement at Centerstone will provide interested students with another viable option.

“In some ways, it’s a second choice, but those students are given that choice up-front,” she said.

Freshman Nick Hallman, another Daum resident, said he will reapply for Honors housing next year, and he hopes to live in Centerstone. In addition to maintaining an Honors community, he said, he’s looking forward to the protection University Housing offers.

“You won’t get screwed by some landlord,” he said.

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