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Due to an unusually low occupancy rate in campus dormitories, Residential Living will fall about $700,000 short of its expected revenues this fiscal year, Deputy Vice Provost George Koval said yesterday. Koval said there have been "roughly 400" vacancies in University dormitories this year, compared with around 200 in previous years. With rooms costing between $3,400 and $3,600 each, the increased vacancy rate amounts to a shortfall of about $700,000, he said. The occupancy rate -- about 95 percent for undergraduate housing and about 93 percent for graduate housing -- is "about a percentage point behind last year's figure," he said. However, Koval emphasized the shortfall will not lead to a rent increase for next year. "[The occupancy rate] has no bearing on the situation at all," he said. "We don't base prices on occupancies." Koval added that any cutbacks which may result from the shortfall will not be made until the end of the current school year. "[The shortfall] will not affect the operations for the current academic year," he said. "The effects it may have will be in regard to capital plans and maintenance plans for this summer." Although he conceded that some cuts will be necessary, Koval added that the permanent closing of the Law School dorm and the temporary one-year closing of English House for renovations will help increase the occupancy rate next year. Koval said since so many rooms are open this year, the closing of these dorms will not cause an overflow of the dormitory system. According to Koval, the increased vacancy rate has not occurred in any specific residential building or section of campus. He said it has affected all residences except the Quadrangle. The occupancy rate for Quad rooms stands at 98 percent, but only 95 percent of rooms in the high rises and about 87 percent of those in King's Court/English House are occupied. And at Hill House, just 85 percent of all rooms are full. "The problem is spread out so that we still need the same number of RAs and other workers," he said. "We can't close another building." Part of the problem may be due to the fact that over one-fourth of University students choose not to live in the immediate area, Koval said. These students instead commute to class. Based on a study of undergraduate and graduate students' ZIP codes, 26 percent of all students have been found to live in areas like the Main Line, Montgomery County and Chester County, he said. Koval said Residential Living will continue to examine the results of the study, but he added, "ZIP codes don't tell you everything." The vacancy rate likely would have been still lower had many students opted to stay on campus this spring rather than study abroad, according to Koval. "The early indications are that fewer students have requested to leave the dorms for the spring semester," he said. "Fewer students might be taking advantage of the study-abroad opportunities." Last year, Residential Living Director Gigi Simeone said the occupancy rate in undergraduate dorms was 96.5 percent. The dorms facing the most serious shortages included the high rises and Kings Court/English House, she said at the time.

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