Free dorm room - if you're willing to wait

A campus housing crunch at schools around the country is so bad that Dartmouth College has offered freshmen the chance to defer their first year in return for a year of free housing.

Fourteen students out of roughly 2,000 the Ivy League school accepted this year have taken Dartmouth up on its offer - worth about $5,000 - which was extended because of increased student enrollment.

Other schools in a similar bind are building more dorms, converting lounges into bedrooms, or even renting hotels.

"A lot of people asked me, 'Aren't you going to be a year behind?' " says Anthony Bramante of Cleveland, who is delaying his entry into Dartmouth. "But others admitted that if given the chance to do it, they would." He plans to spend the next year working at a home for mentally handicapped adults and hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Observers cite several reasons for the enrollment increases: More high school graduates - estimated at 2.8 million this year - are choosing college over jobs, and the children of baby boomers are reaching college age. The Internet has made applying to college easier. And admissions officers have had a tougher time gauging who will attend in the fall. At Dartmouth, 51.7 percent of accepted students enrolled, compared with 48.2 percent five years ago.

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