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Calgary vacancy rates having little effect on university residence applications

CALGARY — Saving a few bucks is taking a backseat to the complete collegiate experience, say city schools.

High vacancy rates and low rents aren't deterring this year's crop of first-year university students from living on campus says Mark Keller, Mount Royal University’s director of resident services.

“Our numbers of new applicants were actually quite high,” he said, adding MRU’s student residence occupancy rate is around 96 per cent.

“Our returning students were a bit lower, but that could have been due to having a few more options and looking around a bit more.”

Across town, University of Calgary residences saw record numbers of students moving into campus housing over the weekend.

Numbers released by the school suggest that around 2,000 students will call the U of C home this year.

First-year students made up a little under half of that number, up from 715 last year.

While living on campus does indeed contribute to having the 'complete’ university experience, MRU residence life coordinator Laura Collings said students who live in residence face unique challenges.

“The biggest is that they're living away from home — a lot of them for the first time,” she said.

“So we really need to make sure they feel safe, that they can go to their RA for anything — that's what we strive for.”

This is the situation facing first-year communications student Jordan Lee, who spent the long weekend moving into his new room at Mount Royal.

He said choosing to live on-campus wasn't a difficult decision.

“It’s definitely is a new adventure for sure,” Lee said.

“With the atmosphere here at school, I just thought that during my first year I'd get to know more people.

“For me, it's important to make friends — the more friends you make, the more opportunities you'll have.”

It's that social aspect of post-secondary life that plays a large role in a student's eventual success, said Ben Reid, Lee’s RA at MRU.

“When you look at it, there really isn't an extra expense living on campus, because you get what you pay for,” the fourth-year-old criminal justice student said.

“If you're looking for a two-bedroom apartment, you're going to look for the cheapest one you can get. If you're looking for the atmosphere and the life-long partnerships, you come to a place like university — to have those encounters and interactions.”

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