Where enrollment (and dorm rooms) runneth over

By Sara Story - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - Jacob Lauxman began his college journey last week, and he thought the first stop would be his dorm room.

"The dorm room you always used to go to on summer vacation when you went to band camp," said Lauxman.

But, instead of a dorm, Lauxman is now calling a hotel room down the street home.

"After that first initial wave of shock, I said, 'OK, well I'll roll with it,'" said Lauxman. "We are in a nice place."

He is one of 200 Lon Morris students living in motel or hotel rooms, because enrollment has nearly tripled in size from last year.

"We didn't want to displace anybody," said David Gehrels, Director of Campus Life at the college. "We wanted everybody to get a fair shot at getting a room."

It's a local issue that reflects a state and nation-wide trend. College enrollments are up and campus living is crowded.

A nearby La Quinta is one of the hotels where students are staying. Now, it costs around $30 a night per student, which is only a little more than it would cost to live on campus.

"It is just like billing them for their residence halls here on campus," said Gehrels. "That money that they pay, we contracted with hotels and it breaks about even."

Alex Patel manages the La Quinta.

"It is helping our business and it is helping the community," said Patel. "We might offer a cheaper rate here, but they are going to spend their money at restaurants, eateries, retail."

Lon Morris is building more student housing now, but the end of hotel living is still unclear.

"Some people say a full year, some people say a couple of months," said Edrian Walton, a freshman. "Nobody really knows."

For now, students will take advantage of the hotels and make a home away from home. Lon Morris says one of the main causes of their enrollment jump is the addition of a new football program.

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