Since the 1960s, thousands of students called Cather Residence Hall home. A celebration in May marked its closing – but after a surge of students submitted university housing contracts for the 2013-14 school year, the building re-opened its doors this semester.
UNL housing officials said that it’s so far, so good.
Brian Shanks, associate director of housing, said UNL Housing received 400 more student housing contracts this fall over last year. That’s a total of 6,211 students living in university housing, with an additional 150 serving as resident assistants. Reopening Cather was really the best option, housing officials said.
“We decided to do it because we really have their best interests in mind,” Shanks said. “Our focus is on students and their success.”
Rather than placing students in temporary housing — lounges and other spare rooms — five floors out of Cather’s 12 are occupied this semester by students. Only 20 are upperclassmen, Shanks said. Cather’s neighbor, Pound Hall, is full.
The growth in housing contracts is a result of several factors – including the arrival of the third-largest first-time freshman class in the university’s history this fall. The 4,420 students represent an increase of 483 students, or 12.3 percent, in the number of freshmen in fall 2012.
Also, Shanks said, it’s more common for students to stay in campus housing beyond their freshman year.
“We are finding that more people want to come back to these halls,” Shanks said. “People are realizing there is a high convenience factor of living with us.”
Sue Gildersleeve, director of University Housing, said Cather will remain open for students as long as it’s needed. Planning for the 2014-15 school year will begin this October.
Plans for the next school year include the opening of another suite-style residence hall at 19th and R streets and taking both Cather and Pound halls offline – assuming the number of housing contracts allow that plan.
So far, Cather residents said they have been pleased with their housing arrangements, Shanks said.
“We have been happy to hear great stories that seem to relay they enjoy the use of the old hall,” he said. “There’s a history in that hall and they feel like they’re part of something.”