BLACKSBURG — They’re back — and there’s more than ever.
Virginia Tech’s on-campus move-in began Wednesday and will continue throughout the week. Students have been trickling into Blacksburg over the course of August, gearing up for the first day of classes on Monday.
More than 800 blue-clad Hokie Helpers assisted thousands of students in settling into their new Blacksburg homes. More than 10,000 students will live in university housing this year, while most of the rest will live throughout town.
Tech is welcoming a record class this year, estimating 7,600 freshmen, though the final number of first year students won’t be released until a census is taken in September. That smashes the previous record of 6,836, set in 2017.
The university and town spent the summer scrambling to prep for the influx of students.
Tech decided to get creative with some headline-grabbing initiatives. That includes offering some financial incentives to incoming students to delay enrollment, converting study rooms and shared spaces to dorm rooms and prepping a pair of hotels — the Holiday Inn Express and the Inn at Virginia Tech — for about 500 students to call home.
And those decisions have put many students at ease as they prepare for classes. The worries of students living on campus were more focused on typical worries like life away from home rather than challenges from the over-enrollment.
“Tech has it under control,” said Johana Dobek, an incoming freshman from the Manassas area moving into Lee Hall.
Wednesday morning, Tech President Tim Sands was assisting some students moving into the Inn. Sands and his wife, Laura Sands, a professor at Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology and the Department of Human Development, regularly help students at move-in time.
But the president, sporting a blue T-shirt, thought this year it was particularly important to help students move into the hotel — as a sign of solidarity with the university community and to get a taste of student life in the newest form of housing.
“Hopefully this is the only year we do this,” he said.
As he helped push a laundry cart in and out of the hotel-turned-dorm, Sands said he was happy with where Virginia Tech is in preparation for the school year. He credited Tech’s leadership team with getting the campus ready for the student influx.
Converting the Inn to student housing was not an easy decision, he said. He was worried about detracting from its overall services. However, he said, it was ultimately the right thing to do for the students who will call the hotel home.
“The students here are going to have a great experience,” he said.
Bailey Coulter of Roanoke said she was looking forward to living at the Inn, though she had been nervous at first. She hadn’t realized it, but most of her classes that are part of her psychology major are closer to the hotel than many of the traditional dorms on the other side of campus.
“It wasn’t my first choice,” she said. “But I think it will be great.”
Moving students into the hotels, as well as the other steps the university took, have been encouraging to Blacksburg officials, Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith said.
Earlier this year she expressed concern with the university’s response and worried that the school and town couldn’t handle the influx. As the students move in she said she feels a little better about the situation, though she continues to carefully monitor what will happen on campus.
“There is no end to the trouble this has caused,” Hager-Smith said. “But, I see the university is working earnestly to provide a quality education to its students.”