Due to increased student enrollment this fall because of a larger-than-usual number of students graduating in February 2024, Middlebury is offering a variety of housing alternatives this semester, including a $10,000 stipend to juniors and seniors who take a voluntary leave of absence for the fall semester and J-term.
Dean of Students Derek Doucet and Associate Dean of Students for Residential Life AJ Place emailed current juniors and seniors on July 31 to offer a financial incentive to take the fall semester off. The first 30 juniors and seniors who were already planning to live on campus could opt-in on a first-come, first-served basis to receive a $10,000 stipend. These students would also receive preferred status in the spring room draw.
The email explained a higher demand for upperclassmen housing due to a large class of graduating Feb students in the class of 2023.5 —220 instead of the typical 100 students. Many of these students were originally part of the class of 2023 but opted to take a semester leave of absence at some point during their time at Middlebury, many during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the class of 2023 was smaller, with only 420 students graduating this past May compared to the usual 600.
According to the email, this decision was not impacted by the size of the current first-year class, which is under 600 students who started at Middlebury this month.
A follow-up email to juniors and seniors on Aug. 3 revealed that the application had, and that students receiving the $10,000 can receive the full stipend in September or in two installments in December and January in order to split the payments over two tax years. Doucet wrote in an email to The Campus in early August that 63 students applied to receive the incentive. He added that the college expected enrollment to reach around 2,800 students this fall after the incentive program.
Gigi Montague ’25.5 planned to live on campus in a two-room double in Painter Hall, but the college incentive changed her decision. Montague spent the summer working in a lab at Montana State University, and decided to take the fall off to continue doing research and enroll in classes at Montana State.
“It was a pretty tough decision because I didn't want to disrupt my life at Midd and leave my friends. I had a lot of conversations with my friends, parents and mentors and ultimately decided that life doesn't need to be so linear and that taking this semester off will give me more time to figure out if I really like academic research as well as give me another perspective on what education looks like,” Montague wrote in an email to The Campus.
Montague added that being from Montana, she appreciates the chance to be close to family for the semester. However, she found the decision stressful and wished she had more than a couple of days to consider whether or not to take the incentive.
Montague will be abroad in the spring and looks forward to returning to campus in a year.
Aidan Kirby ’25.5 was planning to go into the August housing draw, which took place the week after the incentive was offered and included about 200 students this year, comparable to the typical 200-300, according to Place. But instead of selecting housing in August, Kirby took the incentive.
“Although it played a minimal role in taking the semester off, the uncertainty in my housing situation did slightly affect my decision,” he said.
Kirby isn’t sure how he is spending his time off yet but hopes to use the time to help solidify future plans.
“The time frame of the offering forced me to be impulsive and did not allow me the time to secure a job,” Kirby said. “Although the insecurity of the future is annoying, it has forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and reach out to people.”
For students on campus this fall, the college is reinstating other housing alternatives, including the Inn on the Green, which Middlebury purchased in September 2021. The college piloted using the Inn for student housing in the fall of 2021, and then used it again in the fall of 2022. Currently, 24 students are living at the Inn on the Green.
Athena Nooney ’25 and Morgane Orcutt ’25 selected Inn on the Green during the housing draw due to the lack of available spaces for their large housing group.
“We wanted to prioritize being together,” Orcutt said.
In an email to The Campus, Place said that students at the Inn would have benefits including a complimentary parking pass, laundry service, assistance moving back to campus and priority housing for the spring semester.
However, Nooney and Orcutt are going abroad in the spring and are unable to take advantage of the housing priority.
“It’s a nice building, and it’s super cute,” Nooney said. Both students expressed that it is logistically challenging at times to get to and from campus, and wish they had priority selection for senior year housing. But they’re just happy to have housing.
“At the end of the day, it is housing, and it is nice,” Nooney said.
Place anticipates that all students will move back to campus for the spring term.
The college also launched a program this past spring for first years to spend their first semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Thirty-two members of the class of 2027 are at DIS: Study Abroad in Scandinavia, a one-time opportunity created to help alleviate housing pressures on campus. These students will return to campus after J-Term in 2024.
Seunghyun Lee ’27 was attracted to the food scene and adventure in Copenhagen and appreciated that her financial aid traveled with her.
“My first two weeks in Copenhagen felt more like two months,” Lee wrote in an email to The Campus. “A lot of people say that it’s easier to study while being abroad, however as a freshman it has been quite challenging. However I wouldn’t trade the past three and a half weeks for anything in this world and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next three months.”
Last spring, the college also offered a $2,000 incentive to encourage students to switch their study abroad plans from spring to fall, which about 20 students accepted.
Students spending the semester away from campus are already anticipating returning in the future.
“I love Midd and the community of people and friends I have there, so having this time away will make coming back even better,” Montague said.
Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.
She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.