RYAN LOMBARDI: We have spent the last year or so studying student housing on Cornell's campus. We launched a master plan, a housing master plan in January of 2016 to really try to get a sense of the opportunities, of the needs on campus as we think about student housing moving forward. We engaged students, alumni, staff, faculty, the community, the Ithaca community, Tompkins County community, and came out of that with a number of issues that we've identified as we move forward.
One of the things we learned was that we operate at or near capacity virtually all the time. So we need more housing. We've also learned that we need to invest in our current housing stock to improve the conditions in some of our residential environments. But in general, it's been a very informative process. Really helped us to understand student housing moving forward and how we want to shape that for Cornell.
This process that we embarked on over the last year really helped us to get in and understand the issues that are relevant to our students, the way our decisions on campus impact the community, and think about this holistically and broadly as a key element of the student experience. Many of our peers are located in much more urban environments. And so for us, we really see the opportunity for a student to come to Ithaca and experience a residential campus as a real value add to the Cornell experience. And so this process has really reinforced that for us, that students do see that as a high value proposition, and that we really need to make sure that our housing facilities match the expectations of a world class institution.
We have a lot of our college deans who would like to be able to admit more students to Cornell and offer more talented students a Cornell education. There are many more students that would like to come here than we can offer space to right now. And part of our founding mission of providing access and opportunity to as many students as possible, we'd like to expand that class.
We guarantee housing to all first and second year students right now. And because we've learned that we're operating at capacity nearly all the time, if we grow our enrollment without having additional housing, those new students won't have a place to live and we won't be able to keep that guarantee. And so the way these are linked, enrollment and housing, is that we have to make sure we have more housing in place before we consider growing that enrollment any further.
If we grow enrollment at all, we'll make sure that we're investing in all the right elements of the student experience to ensure that we continue the high quality experience that we have been providing for many decades to Cornell students. Housing is obviously a key component to that, but there are other areas as well within student support areas, within student service areas, academic advising. And a lot of attention is being paid to make sure that if we do grow, that we're growing all the right commensurate student support services along the way.
Cornell's a residential college campus in a beautiful small town in upstate New York. And for student and campus life, that means that the residential experience and the student housing experience is absolutely fundamental to the overall student experience. Students choose to come to a place like Cornell for the academic reputation and for what they will get in the classroom, but also because it is a residential college campus. And so we have to make sure that we're providing that foundation, that home base if you will, for our students so that they can thrive in the classroom, so that they can grow as individuals, so that they can meet people that they've never met before, that they've never thought they would encounter in their lives and really get the most out of this education.
So for our division of student and campus life moving forward, housing will continue to be one of the key priorities, one of the fundamental and foundational aspects of the Cornell experience.
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Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi discuss a plan to address student housing on the Ithaca campus while advancing academic initiatives.