SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In Scott Pohlson’s words, the University of South Dakota and Vermillion community has never been “this tight on housing.” 

Ahead of the 2022-23 school year, USD president Sheila Gestring said the school turned away 20 international graduate students because they could not find housing in Vermillion.

Heading into the 2023-24 school year, university officials are barring students from living in university housing for a third year, making sure there’s enough space to house anyone two years or less from their high school graduation date per South Dakota Board of Regents policy.   

Pohlson, the vice president of marketing, enrollment and university relations, told KELOLAND News USD has a six-year plan to renovate the university’s current housing, rather than expand housing on campus. In recent years, USD has closed Julian and Brookman residence halls and tore the building down.

“We are also working with the local community and others on new ideas for what I would call a future of student housing,” Pohlson said. “It also incorporates what the community of Vermillion’s needs are as well.” 

In the Fall of 2022, USD had 1,326 first-time, full-time undergraduate students and its largest class of international students in USD history. Pohlson said all indications are pointing to another large first-year student enrollment in Fall 2023. Back-to-back larger enrollments at USD would buck a trend of declining college enrollments in college attendance in South Dakota. 

According to the Board of Regents factbook, USD had a capacity for 1,989 students in Fall 2022, with 1,304 in traditional housing, 402 in suite-style and 232 in apartments.

The students that are coming to USD, Pohlson said, mostly want to live on campus. 

“They want to live on campus; they want to live in our community. They don’t want to commute and they want the college experience,” Pohlson said. “On the graduate side, we really weren’t expecting that, in terms of the desire to live in our community, because the graduate model can usually be more online or work and go to college.”

According to a presentation to state lawmakers, USD officials are bracing for fewer high school graduates after 2025. That’s because there were slower birth rates following the Great Recession in 2007, 2008 and 2009. 

Pohlson said university officials know exactly how many beds there are on campus, but there’s never been a known capacity in Vermillion. 

“If we’re going to start to renovate these residence halls that we currently have, it means that we’re going to have to figure out what that balance is,” Pohlson said. “In terms of who’s going to live where and how we don’t impact our enrollments.” 

Pohlson said behind the cost of college, housing is the No. 1 amenity future students look at when choosing where to go to school. That leads to a constant balance year-after-year, along with considering how students look at traditional dorm settings. 

“Student housing looks more like what most children have these days, which is their own room,” Pohlson said. “That is a challenge to us in terms of how traditional residence halls were built. I personally feel there’s an advantage to the traditional sense of housing and community and building and networking that we don’t want to lose focus on.” 

Currently, USD provides housing in room types listed as singles, doubles, triples and quads, which breakdown in the traditional, suite-style and apartment housing.

Pohlson said he believes future university housing will include a combination of single rooms, double rooms and triple rooms but it’ll be more single rooms than any other.  

He said figuring out solutions to housing crunches is one of the “good problems” university officials are happy to tackle. Pohlson said the university is thankful for a tuition freeze for another year. 

“We got a lot more work between now and August to actually recruit these students to come, but every indicator that we look at shows that we’re going to be up, and significantly up,” Pohlson said.