Few students go through college without scavenging something, say a sofa from a sidewalk or a television from a trash bin. Now universities are joining them.

Hoping to stem the annual flood of collegiate castoffs, schools nationwide have started rummage sales for the tons of perfectly good possessions students throw out each semester.

Anything students can’t or won’t take with them as they move out often gets left behind: from well-worn furniture and stereo speakers to beer-can collections and food.

Sometimes they even leave behind computers and never-worn clothing.

“People just dump and run. They are so tired of being in school and just want to get out of there,” said Gary Schwarzmueller, executive director of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International in Columbus, Ohio. “It is unbelievably hard to keep up.”

Rather than leaving end-of-the semester scavenging – or for the brave, Dumpster diving – to students, colleges have joined them.

What’s collected is sold during massive sales in hockey stadiums, basketball courts or large greens. The money schools rake in is usually donated to charity.

Massachusettes-based Dump & Run has helped organize the scavenger sales at 15 colleges this year in Canada, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.

The University of Richmond in Virginia and Bates College in Maine are also gearing up for sales this summer.

Arguably the largest collegiate yard sale is at Penn State University, where 14,000 students living in 48 dorms leave behind as much as 180 tons of trash.

In the second year of its sale, dubbed, Trash to Treasure, the school has collected 66 tons of unwanted items and 6 tons of food.

“You would not believe the volume of ramen noodles,” a staple of collegiate diets, said Fraser Grigor, associate director of special projects at the university. “We collected an awful lot of ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese.”

Other unbelievable finds include a mink jacket, shoes still stuffed with paper and a brand new pair of skis.

Grigor said the school had tried to get such a sale going years ago but was simply overwhelmed.

Last year, the school in State College, Pa., recruited a local United Way chapter and hundreds of volunteers. The school garnered $15,000 for the United Way selling about 72 tons of dorm room detritus.

Officials hope they can double that at this year’s sale, scheduled for Saturday beneath the university’s Beaver Stadium. What isn’t sold will be donated to the Salvation Army, Grigor said.

“There are people who could be using this stuff and we were paying to have it hauled to a landfill. From a social and ecological view it was just a waste,” Grigor said.

At Bowdoin College in Maine, Keisha Payson, the school’s recycling czar, and about five dozen people are busy filling the schools hockey arena with items from donation boxes for a sale June 7.

“Usually the Dumpsters would be filled up with stuff. I used to peek over the edge and say, ‘I can’t believe someone would throw that away,”‘ Payson said.

During Bowdoin’s first collection last year, the school sold 35 tons of landfill-bound belongings, netting about $11,700.

Among the take from the 1,600 students on campus this year are a Santa suit and an inflatable wading pool. The school also gives away hundreds of bottles of half-used laundry detergent.

While they would seem to be as simple as a garage sale, small details can snarl university sales, warned Dump & Run founder Lisa Heller, who created the organization while an undergraduate at the University of Richmond.

Colleges have to time their collections for when most students move out and provide adequate places for students to leave usable goods, she said.

And then there’s scavenging from the scavengers.

In the early years of Dump & Run, Heller was hampered by desperate students who emptied her donation boxes so they had a place for their own belongings.

Students probably stole half of her boxes, Heller said, before she started mangling them, cutting away a flap and half the bottom.

On the Net:

Association of College and University Housing Officers International: http://www.acuho.ohio-state.edu

Dump & Run: http://www.dumpandrun.org/

AP-ES-05-23-03 1657EDT

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