FLORENCE — Today begins a three-day move-in period for students at the University of North Alabama, and a record number of students are set to make campus their home for this academic year.
“Right now, we’ve got about 1,741 students assigned that we’re expecting,” said Jennifer Sutton, director of Housing and Residence Life.
That’s only about 100 beds away from putting UNA at full capacity.
Compared to last year’s numbers, it’s about 200 more than the total number of students living in university dorms and apartments — the largest increase in the last five years, according to Sutton.
UNA has nine residence halls and three apartment complexes.
Just over a thousand of this year’s residents will be new students, which consists almost entirely of freshmen. About 730 more students will be returning to campus residence life as sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Though classes begin in less than one week, Sutton said that number could still increase.
“In the past, we’ve had students come in and want a housing assignment up through Labor Day,” she said. “We don’t have a deadline for applications. As long as we have a space, we will make them a home.”
Several factors may be contributing to the increase, which Sutton expects will continue.
A large enrollment class about four years ago could have sparked the yearly increases, she said, though this year could be the highest because of housing scholarships.
This is the first year UNA has offered the scholarships, according to Sutton. At least 350 students were recipients, often earning them through other opportunities, such as leadership and honors scholarships.
The scholarships covered the rate of Rivers Hall, though Sutton said some students opted to live in newer halls and pay the difference.
Other catalysts for the increase could be a “significant” increase in the international student population, as well as a general desire to live on campus for the experience.
“I think the overall appeal of living on campus and being close to all the things happening, and being able to connect with people is driving even more local students to want to live on campus,” Sutton added.
Sutton said the university has not needed to turn away any students seeking housing.
Two additional floors in Rice Hall were opened to accommodate international students. In addition, Sutton said UNA has tightened up on offering students the option to buy out an entire room for themselves.
“We haven’t been able to do that quite as much, just because we need to be able to accommodate as many students as possible,” she said.
The increase means volunteers have been in higher demand for this year’s move-in. Sutton said they still need more volunteers each day, especially for the afternoon shifts.
Drinks are provided, and a cooling station will be set up in the Student Recreation Center.
“We’ve got some really great staff, but we still would love to have some of the larger groups and organizations throughout the Shoals to come and help us,” Sutton said.
Individuals are also welcome to help.
“We’re excited about this year and the number of students we have living on campus,” she added. “It should be a really great year.”