UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Dorms are coming to UHCL but what about parking?

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The University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) is planning to open a residence hall by fall 2019. This will mean multiple changes for the university. Student housing contributes to a more involved college experience and offers students a chance to make a home away from home.

University Forest Apartments (UFA) is an independent apartment complex housed on UHCL property. It is the school’s primary on-campus housing, but incorporating dorms is a major step for the growing university. With a new residence hall on the horizon, UHCL has less than a year and a half to address issues such as additional parking, meal plans and roommates.

With on-campus housing comes the matter of roommates. On the housing application, students will be able to enter the name of the roommate they have in mind. For those without a preselected roommate, students will complete a questionnaire as part of their housing application. Afterward, the school housing system will use the answers to find potential best-matched roommates. Most four-year universities utilize this type of room assignment. Ideally, new students will become lifelong friends with their randomly assigned pairings, but that is not always the case. Mostly, it is up to the students, not the school, how they choose to adapt to their new living mate.

The single residence hall will offer a selection of room layouts from which students can indicate their preference for on their housing application. Much like buying a car, the different room options come at a cost. A single room with a private bathroom comes at a higher rate per semester than the suite-style single room or suite-style double room. Students should be prepared to experience a drastic change from their current living situation, considering most college dorms are about the size of a jail cell. The residence hall also features a community kitchen, so the smell of burnt popcorn is sure to become quickly infused in the newly constructed walls. For all questions pertaining to roommates, room features and costs, click here.

Traditionally, colleges do not have a residence hall without some kind of dining hall and meal plan option. Right now, UHCL does not have a wide variety of meal options, i.e. the Patio Cafe and rotating food trucks. Plans for a dining hall have been discussed and incoming students hoping to live in the dorms will be required to purchase a meal plan. Some information about meal plans can be found here.

PHOTO: Staff photo of The Signal reporter Maria Nosrat. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli.
Staff photo of The Signal reporter Maria Nosrat. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli.

Perhaps the biggest question mark that comes with the new dorms is whether or not parking accommodations will be made for the influx of students requiring permanent parking spots on campus. It is no secret the current parking situation is not ideal. Aside from those who arrive on campus before the sun rises, students have to park all the way in Timbuktu just to come to class for one hour. The school claims to already have enough parking to accommodate the number of new students enrolling. With the opening of the residence hall, UHCL and Students Services are expecting up to 300 more cars on campus.

With the limited parking available to students now, this projected number is alarming. Students should not have to enter “The Hunger Games” just to find a parking spot. Currently, there is no proposed plan to increase parking spot availability. With all the construction already taking place, it should not be so hard to put up a parking garage while they are at it.

Just because dorms are being built, that does not change UHCL from being a commuter campus. There will still be a large number of students who must drive from their homes, some as far as Galveston. The new residence hall will not only bring in a proposed 300 students, but it will continue to contribute to an ever-growing student body population. The university’s lack of plans for more parking and meals seem short-sighted and not compatible with the expansion.

The opening of a residence hall, as well as the increase in opportunities for campus involvement, is tremendous progress for a school that only accepted freshman as of four years ago. However, with progress comes responsibility. Not increasing the amount of available parking is not a responsible decision on behalf of the school. If UHCL is able to supply the funding and resources to build dorms for their students, it should be able to give them a few more parking spots while they are at it. Increasing the number of food options available and places for students to hang out after hours, such as a student union building, is another article for another day.