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As enrollment grows, housing at Morgan State fights to keep up with demand

A rendering of Morgan’s upcoming Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall, a 670-bed facility slated to open in August 2022. (Courtesy of Morgan State University.)

When students at Morgan State University in Baltimore were surveyed about their student housing four years ago, one thing was clear. 

“Students love Morgan, but they hate the housing,” recalled Sidney H. Evans Jr., the university’s executive vice president for finance and administration. 

That survey, as well as a study completed by a Washington-based university housing consultant that compared the student housing at Morgan to other institutions in Maryland and to other historically Black colleges and universities, made it clear to university leaders that Morgan’s student housing was not up to par. 

Now, four years later, the university is wrapping up part one of its three-phase plan to expand student housing with its new, $100 million Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall. It will be the first of several new facilities that aim to supplement Morgan’s existing student housing, which comprises about 3,650 beds on and off-campus.  

The new residence hall, which will also include a dining facility and some academic space, is slated to include 670 beds for student residents, increasing the amount of student housing available by about 18%. It will open in August 2022, the first new housing facility to open at Morgan since 2004. 

The next phase of the project, which could begin as early as next fall, involves developing another new housing facility that will include 400 beds and refurbishing some existing on-campus residential halls. The third, which will not begin for several years, will involve the development of more apartment-like facilities that graduate students and other non-traditional students can occupy.  

The university needs the new space now more than ever; when the university first developed its strategic housing plan in 2018, enrollment was remaining essentially steady, at an increase of about 1.0% per year. But more recently, enrollment at the Baltimore university is skyrocketing; 2021’s record-setting freshman class is around 80% larger than the previous years. Overall enrollment is up 11%. 

This increase has had some negative repercussions on students who want to live on campus; Morgan had to turn down some housing applicants this semester. Other students have had to live in a nearby hotel, which Morgan leased the entirety of for student housing, all semester. 

“That’s not an ideal situation, not for the students and not for the parents. We don’t want to be in that situation again,” Evans said. 

By the time Morgan is finished executing its housing plan, in 2027 or 2028, university officials hope around 40% of its students will be living on campus (right now, Evans said, that percentage is in the low 30s). Many studies have indicated that living on campus can improve academic outcomes for students, making them more likely to stay in school and to successfully graduate. The university also hopes to be able to offer housing to all freshmen and sophomore students. 

The university’s strategic housing plan aims to solve more than just the lack of housing at the university. The study completed in 2017 also showed that Morgan did not have enough of a variety of housing offerings, and it charged residents less than other universities in Maryland. 

“Our housing pricing structure is the second-lowest in the state of Maryland. Now, that is a double-edged sword. Since we had not built new housing in almost 20 years, it would be hard to charge what our competitor institutions (charge),” Evans said. 

Evans hopes that, by the time the school finally finishes executing its housing strategy, housing at Morgan will be sustainable for at least ten to fifteen years to come.  

“As the University continues to grow in prestige and stature, more students are choosing Morgan to pursue their education,” Morgan State University President David Wilson said in a housing update on Wednesday. “They, like you, understand that a world-class Morgan education will imbue them with the skills to be the leaders and innovators of the future. As such, we predict that our need for adequate on-campus housing accommodations will continue to grow.” 

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