Beginning August 2024, the University of Mississippi will lease 130 furnished bed spaces at the Lark Oxford complex and 65 bed spaces at Gather Oxford Apartments. This plan is the latest in a series of efforts by the university to accommodate increases in enrollment and greater demand for student housing.
The lease with Gather Oxford Apartments will cost $1,038,360 for the first year. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees board book also outlines a potential plan to lease the space for the next four years. The number of beds would increase to 104, with the annual cost of the lease increasing 4.5% annually.
The agreement between the university and Lark Oxford will cost the university $1,403,084 for a one-year lease with no current plans to renew in the coming years, according to the IHL Board of Trustees board book. For both of these projects, funding will come from the revenue generated by student housing.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Director of Student Housing John Yaun elaborated on the room availability and rates at the Lark.
“We will offer two, three and four-bedroom apartments to upperclassmen at the Lark,” Yaun said. “Rates will vary depending on apartment style. We will not know the specific rates until later this semester.”
Junior biology major Brandon Williams, a resident of the Lark, shared why he believes the complex has great appeal for college students, but he also voiced some frustrations around parking.
“The amenities are what make the place stand out,” Williams said. “They have a pool, hot tub, putting green, cornhole boards, half basketball court, pool table and ping pong table. The only issue in my opinion is the parking. Parking spots are kind of small, so bigger vehicles are harder to park. I can’t imagine it being much better than living here.”
The agreement between the university and the Lark comes after a similar deal with The Quarters at Oxford apartment complex in 2023, a deal that the university has expanded.
“We have expanded our original master lease agreement with the Quarters to lease the entire complex for 2024-25,” Yaun said.
Aminata Ba, a freshman public policy leadership major who lived off campus at the university-leased Quarters apartments this year, expressed frustration with her housing situation, saying it made her feel isolated from campus.
“As a freshman living off campus, I find that it has been incredibly difficult integrating myself into traditional first-year student life,” Ba said. “Simple things like seeing friends or grabbing dinner become increasingly complicated when you are physically separated from the heart of the campus. I feel isolated.”
Ba also highlighted problems faced by Quarters residents with no access to a vehicle.
“I feel for first-year students that can only rely on the OUT bus system for transportation, because it can be unreliable,” Ba said. “I believe more needs to be done in helping first-year students that live off campus. We deserve to enjoy the freshman experience well.”
Other students echoed Ba’s sentiments, citing how living in dorms shaped their first year at the university.
“I think that living on campus has helped me get used to being at Ole Miss,” Caroline Croley, a freshman public policy leadership major, said. “I would not have lived off campus given the choice because of the convenience of having everything you need on campus. And now that I know about the parking problems that have happened, I really would not have wanted to live off campus because it would have been extremely difficult to park this year.”
While leasing off-campus apartments for UM students resolves immediate student housing issues, the university has implemented various plans to accommodate a growing student body in the future. The recent demolition of Kincannon Hall has made way for the construction of three new dorm buildings in that area.
“The current housing environment at the university and in Oxford is an example of supply and demand,” Yaun said. “We need to offer more university housing and will soon begin construction on three new residence halls that will add 981 additional on-campus beds that are scheduled to open in 2026.”
Until the completion of the new dorms, the university plans to continue leasing off-campus bed spaces. UM also began converting double occupancy dorm rooms to house three students last year, a practice that will continue in fall 2024.
“We will continue to utilize lease agreements with local apartment complexes,” Yaun said. “Existing double rooms have been converted to triple rooms, and other short-term solutions have been implemented to offer as many university-managed beds as possible. Public universities like ours also rely on privately-owned housing in the local community to house the majority of students.”