Hannah Steyn, Assistant News Editor
This semester has thus far been noticeably quieter than previous ones. While this is to be expected in the first week, as all classes have been held online, but even so, residence halls are emptier than they have been in recent semesters.
According to President Laura Casamento’s spring welcome communications earlier this month, Utica College has 136 fewer students registered for on-ground classes this semester than it did last spring.
Students have recognized the decrease in population, too. Junior Jessica Spence has noticed a dramatic change in the number of students living in her residence hall.
“I live in Tower Hall, and it’s definitely been much quieter,” she said. “There are under 40 students living here right now. My floor is almost empty, and I have a suite completely to myself.”
Senior Bobby Washington is one of the many students who elected to transition completely online this semester. He credited the lack of student life and the heightened restrictions, along with the high price of campus living, for his decision.
Spence said she thinks part of the reason students aren’t returning to campus is the fear of COVID-19.
“I also think that with classes being online, it makes more financial sense for students to stay home,” Spence said. “People also maybe move off campus because there are a lot of restrictions, and they’re looking for a bit more freedom.”
Marissa Finch, interim director of student living, said that there are a variety of reasons that student numbers have dropped.
“Every spring we see a small shift in numbers due to students graduating in December, going away on an internship in the spring or choosing not to return to the college,” Finch said. “This semester, there have also been some students who have decided to take their classes remotely from home. Everyone is impacted by COVID-19, and for some students, they have chosen that their safest way through the pandemic is to be at home.”
Finch said that the UC community misses having the distance students on campus, but understands that every student and every individual needs to weigh their options and determine what is best for them.
Washington said he wouldn’t be surprised if the college is experiencing some current financial difficulties and might in upcoming semesters as a result of the lower enrollment and students becoming distance students, or commuters.
“If you look at past semesters, there have been almost as many students living on campus as are commuting,” he said. “Now, with the pandemic, a lot more students have moved off-campus. I doubt there’s much way the college could persuade a student to move back on campus once they’ve moved off, especially when you consider how much student housing is available in Utica.”
Washington plans to come back next semester, but would rather live off-campus moving forward.
Washington predicts that this loss of income could result in some financial stress for Utica College, a sentiment that was echoed in Casamento’s statement, which said that the drop in enrollment will cause a decrease in revenue.
Spence is unsure of what next semester may bring, saying that she thinks it is largely dependent on both how this semester goes, and how widespread the vaccine is, as once the majority of people have been vaccinated, Utica College students can return to campus confidently knowing that they will be able to have a “normal” college experience.
“With the pandemic affecting people differently I do expect students will come back once the pandemic subsides or is eliminated,” Finch said.