AMHERST -- With high-speed Internet access, cable television hookups, and an easy commute to the classroom, more juniors and seniors at the University of Massachusetts are thinking it is cozier to live on campus than in an off-campus apartment.
But that trend, coupled with a policy requiring freshmen and sophomores to live on campus, has created a housing crunch, often forcing the university to find temporary housing for students in hotels and dormitory lounges at the start of the school year.
Officials expect the problem to ease now that trustees have told them they can borrow $85 million to build apartment-style residence halls for upperclassmen.
"It's definitely more convenient to just stay on campus instead of looking for an apartment," said Brian Barney, a fifth-year student from Brookline who has lived in residence halls since he was a freshman. "You have everything you need, and it's cheaper than living in town."
There are now 11,100 of the school's 24,000 students living in the 41 residence halls on campus. Most rooms are occupied by two students.
The lack of privacy has traditionally pushed students to move off campus. But now, with the comforts of a 60-channel cable TV lineup and easy Internet access bundled into the $6,100 annual housing cost, more students are willing to trade their privacy for convenience.
And a study conducted during the past two years indicated there are as many as 1,500 students who would remain on campus after their sophomore year if there were more private accommodations.
In order to meet the demand, housing officials say they are planning to build apartment-style residence halls that could house up to 1,500 students. Each unit would be divided into four one-person bedrooms and have a kitchen and two shared bathrooms.
"We want to accommodate upperclass students who don't want to live in a traditional double-style room," said Michael Gilbert, director of housing services. "And we want to open for the school year without having students living in temporary quarters."
The current housing crunch also means the university has to deny on-campus housing to juniors and seniors who transfer to the school. And if a sophomore decides to leave campus during his or her junior year, the school will not guarantee housing when he or she returns.
"The cable access is pretty nice, but the bathrooms get filled too quickly," said Rebecca Flohr, a senior from Kittery, Maine, who lives on campus. "After a few years, you start wanting more privacy."
Gilbert said he is not sure how many residence halls will be built, but he said construction may begin this summer, and students will be able to begin moving in next year.