Remember that story I wrote a month ago about UNCG offering students $1,500 off fall semester rent if they chose to live in campus housing?
Apparently it worked.
As of Monday, according to the university, UNCG had received 1,585 housing applications from incoming first-year students. That was 206 more than it had at the same time in 2020 and 16 ahead of its pre-pandemic 2019 numbers.
Moreover, the grant encouraged a lot more UNCG students to apply early for housing. (All new and returning students are eligible for the money; UNCG is using federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover the expense.)
Since announcing the grant in April, UNCG said 864 students signed up for campus housing. That's nearly 50 percent more than in the same period a year ago. Of those, 307 students applied for housing in the week before the original May 1 deadline.
Because of "the popularity of the grant and the sense that it is helping students," UNCG spokeswoman Eden Bloss told me this week, UNCG extended the grant deadline to May 31. Students can still sign up for housing (if it's available) after May 31, but they won't get the $1,500 applied toward their fall 2021 housing bill unless they sign up by the new end-of-the-month deadline.
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The freshman housing numbers are encouraging for UNCG, which saw a 12 percent decline in first-year students in fall 2020 from the previous year.
Nationally and locally, a lot of students sat out the 2020-21 academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic — either because they didn't want to take online classes, they didn't think it was safe to be on campus or they didn't have the money.
The biggest declines have been at community colleges, which affects schools like GTCC directly (because it's a community college) and schools like UNCG indirectly (because it accepts more than 1,000 new transfer students each fall from N.C. community colleges). What's keeping the higher ed train on the rails at the moment is growth in grad school enrollment.
Because there's a COVID-19 vaccine and the pandemic's grip seems to be loosening, there are a few signs pointing to a college enrollment bounce-back in the fall. UNCG's housing numbers are just the latest harbinger. We'll know more in the fall when students show up (or not).
Staff writer John Newsom covers higher education for the News & Record of Greensboro and the Winston-Salem Journal.