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S.F. State students feeling the housing crunch

The Associated Press
Monday November 20, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO – Toxic mold, an unfinished apartment complex and the lure of dot-com dollars are all hampering enrollment efforts at San Francisco State University where students are struggling to find a place to live, college officials said. 

Dozens of students are said to have withdrawn from programs at the university, telling officials that affordable housing is too hard to find. Others are giving up on finding housing close to campus, relegating themselves to long commutes from surrounding communities. 

“If you don’t have car it’s even more stressful,” said broadcasting major Reagan Nolan, who commutes into the city from temporary dormitories on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. 

From the island, it takes Nolan an hour to get to campus and just as long to travel home, an exhausting commute says Nolan who often drives. 

“Now I get home, and if I’ve been sitting in traffic for an hour, I have no desire to do anything,” she said. 

The housing crisis started last spring semester, when toxic mold was discovered at a residential building on campus. More than 650 students were forced to evacuate the building and were left scrambling for dwelling alternatives. 

Then came the stalled opening of the Village at Centennial Square on-campus complex. It was to open in late August, but remains closed and 760 beds there are on hold until at least late January. 

Besides the housing crunch, university officials say some students are being lured away to well-paying high-tech jobs in the area, further sapping enrollment numbers. 

“It’s like this roaring economy has contributed to softer enrollment,” said university spokeswoman Ligeia Polidora. “We’ve been expecting something like this. I don’t know if we expected (the enrollment drop) to be quite this large.” 

Enrollment at the university dropped from 27,701 last year to 26,826 this fall, the lowest figure in five years. More than a third of the 23 campuses in the California State University system, contrastingly, are enjoying record enrollments this year. 

The decline is also affecting programs at San Francisco State University such as the dance department. Jerry Duke, chairman of the department, says he’s lost a tenured position and seven classes due to budget cutbacks stemming from low enrollment. 

The housing outlook is bleak for the university, Duke said. “I think it’s a terrible thing. But I don’t know what can be done about it.”