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San Jose State will use hotel as dorm

August 4, 2011 | 11:21 am

Photo: Exterior view of San Jose State University. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press San Jose State -- unprepared for a surplus of enrolling freshman -- has arranged for a temporary dorm with a somewhat inconvenient location, but compelling amenities: a local Clarion Hotel.

“Just three miles from campus,” officials announced in an email to students, describing the hotel as “a resort-style property, with an outdoor pool, spa, restaurant, fitness room, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi in each of the resident rooms.” There’s also a putting green, with putters available at the front desk.

The problem arose because the university requires all first-time freshmen from more than 30 miles away to live in dormitories -- because new students fare better when residing on campus, officials said. That became a problem when 4,000 freshmen enrolled, up from 2,760 a year ago. More than 100 upperclassmen who'd signed housing contracts were suddenly pushed out.

“Demand for campus housing has outstripped supply,” according to a university news release. Students and their families have known since mid-July that the university was trying to arrange for a hotel, but faced uncertainties about the location and quality of the accommodations.

The hotel will prove opportune for airborne getaways -- the hotel sits one mile east of San Jose International Airport and offers a free airport shuttle. One option for getting to campus will be a light rail line 150 yards from the hotel, which also offers free parking for car commuters.

Students get a somewhat different package of services: Housekeepers will only come by once a week rather than daily. And one shared area will be designated as a “study lounge.” Each room will have standard furnishings, including two full-size beds and a mini refrigerator, not to mention a private bathroom.

In contrast, many incoming freshman at UC Berkeley will be crammed into one-room triples and will share bathrooms down the hall.

Still, San Jose State students can opt out of university housing entirely if they wanted only the traditional dorm experience, officials said. The university said it also will offer meal plans to accommodate the far-flung scholars.

One obvious benefit for the hotel is getting paid for rooms that were typically unused. The hotel’s occupancy rate usually ranges from 40% to 60% the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The university previously faced a housing shortage a decade ago, when the tech bubble caused off-campus rents to skyrocket. And business travelers filled local hotels. The university appealed to alumni to rent out rooms, the paper reported. The school opened additional dorm space in 2005.

Managing freshman enrollment can be a challenge for colleges, which make educated guesses on how many students to admit. They’ve got a problem if either too many or too few enroll.

The University of Southern California has handled the overage in recent years by using several floors of the university-owned Radisson Hotel as a residence hall.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: San Jose State University. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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