UGA’s answer to dorm overcrowding? Cash to students who forgo rooms

UGA is asking older students to forgo their dorm rooms for freshmen and offering them cash to do so. (AJC file photo)

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UGA is asking older students to forgo their dorm rooms for freshmen and offering them cash to do so. (AJC file photo)

The University of Georgia is offering sophomores, juniors and seniors up to $3,500 to give up their dorm rooms to make space for incoming first-year students.

UGA is seeing more accepted high school seniors deciding to enroll at the Athens campus, spurring a rush on dorm rooms. The university requires first-year, full-time undergraduate students to live in campus residence halls.

“The on-campus living and learning experience is a hallmark of an undergraduate education at UGA, and we firmly believe it contributes positively to our stellar retention rate for first-year students, as well as to our high graduation rates,” said UGA spokesman Gregory Trevor. “University Housing is implementing an incentive program for current 2022-23 residence hall contract holders to accommodate our incoming first-year students.”

UGA is offering older students a discounted rate on campus if they transfer out of main campus residence halls that traditionally house freshmen. Students are being promised rooms at a 50% reduction in Brown Hall, which is not on the main campus. It is off Prince Avenue and 2 miles from the UGA Arch.

The email to students about Brown Hall states they would pay a discounted rate $2,576 for a double in suite for the upcoming academic year, compared to this year’s rate of $5,004.

“The discounted rate will apply to anyone who will live in Brown Hall in 2022-23. That includes the students who agreed to relocate to Brown Hall from other on-campus residences as well as students who had already agreed to live in Brown Hall,” said Trevor. “The university determined that this approach is the fairest and most equitable way to treat all Brown Hall residents.”

UGA is also offering older students willing to live off campus $3,500 to cancel. Finding a place off campus now poses challenges. Athens has seen a rise in short-term rentals through such sites as Airbnb. Rental listings this week show most vacant units are in large apartment complexes. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,000, a 5% increase over last year, according to the real estate site Zumper.

UGA has used cash incentives and discounts in the past to encourage students to give up their dorm rooms. Facing a critical fall dorm shortage after more freshmen also chose to enroll in 2017, the campus attempted a variety of enticements. When too few students took the incentives, UGA ended up doubling up students in the two- and four-bedroom apartments in its East Campus Village, which also is outside the main campus and provides bus service to classes.