NASHUA - Housekeeping on a weekly basis isn’t an amenity usually associated with college dorm life. But it’s one of the perks that come with living in a hotel.
In response to a surge in the number of students requesting on-campus housing and several other factors, the University of Massachusetts Lowell has contracted with the Radisson Hotel Nashua to house 240 undergraduate students.
The university leased three floors and will contract with the hotel for spring semester if there is still a need.
Larry Siegel, dean of students at UMass Lowell, said it’s a short-term solution to a larger issue of a lack of housing available on campus. But he also said it’s a unique opportunity.
Students staying in the hotel would have access to amenities that don’t usually come with a college dorm, he said.
“I think it’s going to be pretty plush living to be honest with you,” he said.
Private bathrooms and access to the hotel pool and fitness center are some of the other benefits that will be afforded to the students. The hotel will place two beds into each of the rooms to accommodate students.
The rooms will be cleaned on a weekly basis, including linen exchange.
Steven Lambert, general manager of the hotel off Exit 1 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike, said dealing with large groups is nothing new for the hotel. There have also been professional athletes who have had prolonged stays, he said.
“We’re excited to be helping the school out during their crisis,” he said.
The hotel has 333 rooms and students will occupy approximately 30 percent of the building until Dec. 23, the last day of the semester.
A brochure put out by the university described UMass Lowell at the Radisson as “an exciting new housing opportunity.”
Siegel said the university would have to meet with representatives from the hotel to determine whether the university will need the space for the spring semester, as well.
Siegel said the university knew there was going to be a severe housing shortage when the number of incoming freshmen and transfers were significantly higher than normal.
The size of the freshmen class increased by 20 percent and transfers went up 17 percent, he said. There were also increases in the returning number of students, many of whom opted to keep their on-campus housing, he said.
There are 2,300 spaces available to live on-campus, and 1,600 students returned, when it is typically around 1,400, Siegel said.
“That all led us to find about 400 people on a waiting list for housing toward the middle of July,” he said.
Siegel said the university was able to find housing for some of those students in apartments near the campus.
But because the university did not want to spread the students out across the city, Siegel said the search began for a larger venue in the area to house the rest of the students.
Several hotels were contacted within the Lowell area, but Siegel said it was difficult to find one place for everyone. The university was eventually referred to the Radisson Hotel Nashua, he said.
After meeting with representatives from the hotel, the deal was made, Siegel said.
Each room will have two full-size beds, desks, individual bathrooms and access to cable and Internet.
“They just rolled out a red carpet for us,” he said. “They offered us virtually everything we could have possibly ever wanted.”
Siegel said the hotel would charge the university its normal rate for room and board, which is $3,850.50 a semester. As part of that fee, the hotel will provide two meals a day seven days a week, and students will also be credited $140 for on-campus dining.
“What they’re charging us is what we charge the students,” he said.
Siegel said the university is trying to give the students as comfortable an environment as possible and make it a positive experience.
The hotel dedicated two rooms as social areas with TVs and another as a study area and is installing coin-operated laundry machines, Siegel said.
There will be residence life staff living at the hotel, as well as shuttle service to and from the Lowell campus, which is about 10 miles from the hotel.
Students will also be allowed to park on campus for free. There is usually a $150 fee, Siegel said. The university is also paying for additional security at the hotel.
Lambert said he doesn’t have any concerns about the college students having any impact on the other hotel guests, saying the students would be generally isolated in the hotel.
“They’re going to have their world, and the rest of the hotel will continue to operate normally,” he said.
Lambert said it’s not yet clear whether the students will have access to room service.
There are some rules the students are going to have to live by that wouldn’t apply in a typical dorm. One of those rules is that even for students who are 21 or older, alcohol is not permitted in the hotel rooms.
About a third of the students will be freshmen. The rest of the students will be upperclassmen and transfers.
Students will also not be allowed to put any holes in the walls, which means they’ll have to use putty to put up any posters or decorations. Students will also have to sign in any visitors.
Siegel said students would still be expected to abide by quiet hours, which start at 9 p.m.
“We’ve let them know they’re going to be held accountable for their behavior,” he said.
Some parents and students have already toured the facilities. Monday is move-in day and there will be an orientation and dinner for all of the students at the hotel later in the evening, Siegel said.
Students have been receptive to the idea, he said. Some students who were slated to live on campus have actually asked to switch to the Radisson, which the university has allowed, he said.
Siegel said the university would continue to explore opportunities to add housing on campus.
“Ultimately long term, we need to build new residence halls and acquire additional housing,” he said.
UMass Lowell had been planning the construction of a 400-student dormitory but backed out of the $20 million project this week after the Massachusetts attorney general’s office raised concerns about the bidding process, according to the Boston Globe
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This article appears in the August 15 2008 issue of New Hampshire Business Review