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Central Michigan University will temporarily shutter some dorms next fall

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Central Michigan University is planning to temporarily shutter four residential halls next fall, officials announced Thursday.

The North Campus residential community of Larzelere, Robinson, Calkins and Trout halls will be temporarily closed. About 200 first- and second-year students who were signed up to live in those halls this fall will be relocated to residential facilities on the south side of campus, where officials say services will be amplified. 

The announcement first was made to the students living in those communities in an email sent by Kathleen Gardner, executive director of student affairs.

She said the decision was made based on enrollment estimates for the fall semester that show the university will have more housing than students living on campus.

Gardner told The Detroit News she did not have those estimates available Thursday.

"We can meet student needs by expanding housing options on the south of campus and reopening Troutman, Wheeler, and Kulhavi Halls in the Towers," Gardner wrote. "These changes will enable CMU to provide higher service and support to students by streamlining operations."

A follow-up, campus-wide email indicated that the move is aimed at enhancing the experience of living on campus after two years of social distancing during the pandemic.

CMU spokesman Aaron Mills said during the pandemic the college had students spread out across campus in "de-densified residential communities, often on floors with several vacant rooms." 

"In some cases, this meant some students had fewer opportunities to meet new friends and build community. It also meant that some services, including campus dining, were stretched thin, trying to accommodate a smaller number of students in multiple locations," Gardner and Shaun Holtgreive,

interim associate vice president for student affairs, wrote in the letter.

Food service hours that had been curtailed with be broadened, they said.

"Weekend hours will resume at the Eatery and Dine & Connect, and Social House will reopen for lunch, dinner and late-night dining Monday-Friday," Gardener and Holtgreive wrote.

While the move provides more opportunities for students to meet new people and participate in campus life programs, the temporary closures also, "allows significant cost savings for CMU while preserving jobs," Gardner and Holtgreive wrote.

Mills said the plan includes reopening Wheeler Hall, which was used for quarantine and isolation space due to COVID. He added that Kulhavi Hall had been offline due to lower numbers of students, and Troutman Hall is newly remodeled.

Mill said 3,666 students lived in residence halls during the fall 2021 semester, Mills added.

Gardner told The News the university is planning renovation projects in the four residential halls while they are closed. She said the four dorms would be reopened "in the near future" but did not provide a date or year.

CMU requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. This year, CMU housed students in 18 residential halls but next year 16 dorms will be open including the newly-renovated Cobb Hall.

CMU's enrollment has been declining in recent years and it lost more than 4,000 students since the pandemic began. But problems began before that.

The school in 2012 had more than 27,000 students, and enrollment had fallen to 19,431 by 2019. In 2021, CMU enrolled 15,465 students, which was a drop of about 11% compared to 2020 when 17,344 students were enrolled, according to a report by the Michigan Association of State Universities.

CMU's enrollment decline over the last two years is the largest out of all the state's 15 public universities.

Jennifer DeHaemers, CMU vice president for student recruitment and retention, previously attributed part of CMU's enrollment decline to the university being behind in recruitment strategies used by institutions it competes with for students.

She said in November that CMU has hired new staff to turn the enrollment tide and is stepping up efforts to compete by upgrading its on-campus housing, investing in new technology that tracks potential students, and making campus tours smaller and more focused on areas of study.

"Turning enrollment around isn’t done in one day or one year," DeHaemers said. "If you had a 10-year history of declining enrollment, you will not turn that around in one year. It’s a long game."