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Citadel freshman cadets do pushups in a barracks on March 24, 2018. Some cadets returned to campus this fall and found that they no longer had space to live in the barracks buildings alongside their companies and battalions. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/ Staff

At least 92 Citadel cadets returned to campus for the fall 2018 semester to learn there was no room for them in the barracks.

Facing an acute shortage of student housing, the public military college has squeezed cadets into unusual places or off the campus entirely. Currently, 13 cadets are living in a trailer beside a football practice field; two cadets live inside a barracks clock tower; and 77 have been commuting from off campus, according to Citadel spokesman Col. John Dorrian.

Most undergraduate Citadel students are members of the Corps of Cadets, an arrangement that ordinarily requires them to live all four years in military-style barracks on campus.

Cadets are assigned companies and battalions at the start of their freshman year, and they expect to spend the entirety of their college career working alongside the same core group of classmates. 

The affected cadets are still expected to participate in physical training and to march in formation with their battalions — they just have to start the day earlier to get there on time.

The Brigadier, a student publication, wrote on the housing shortage Sunday: "Typically, we would call this an 'embracing of the suck' moment, but this is way beyond embracing the suck ... This is the suck embracing you. In other words, this is ridiculous."

Citadel trailer

Faced with a housing shortage, The Citadel is housing cadets in unusual locations like this mobile unit beside Wilson Field, which has four bunks to a room. Paul Bowers/Staff

Dorrian attributed the housing problem to a larger-than-expected freshman class — 837 cadets, when the college expected 813 — as well as an increasing rate of upper-class students returning to campus. He said the college predicts class sizes based on the 10-year historical attrition averages, but the predictions came up short this time.

"It's not an optimal situation obviously," Dorrian said, "but it's something that we’re going to have to adjust our models to assume that more folks are coming back, because it's not something we want to do repeatedly."

The college has given the affected cadets a discount on their tuition rate, which normally includes the costs of room and board. Usual tuition rates range from about $24,400 to $29,700 for in-state students, and from $46,900 to $52,100 for out-of-state students.

The Citadel faced a similar overcrowding problem in the fall of 2017, albeit on a smaller scale. Undergraduate enrollment has grown since the school activated a 21st cadet company, Victor Company, in 2012.

Relief may be on the way. A little over three weeks after arriving on campus, 74 freshmen have already dropped out this semester, according to Dorrian. That's about on track with the normal attrition rate for the freshman "knob" year, which features a physically grueling "Hell Week" amid thick August heat.

The college is also encouraging more students to study abroad for the spring semester, which could free up space in the barracks.

"If you look around the state and around the country, you would find a lot of colleges are struggling to meet their enrollment numbers," Dorrian said. "We have the opposite problem."

The Citadel Padgett-Thomas Barracks (copy)

Cadets are reportedly being housed in makeshift rooms inside the clock tower at Padgett Thomas Barracks during the fall 2018 semester. File/Staff

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Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.

Paul Bowers is an education reporter and father of three living in North Charleston. He previously worked at the Charleston City Paper, where he was twice named South Carolina Journalist of the Year in the weekly category.

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