University sees need for housing increases as a positive sign
Murray State sold $28.2 million in bonds to a private investment company March 31 to finance the construction of New Franklin Residential College, which the University hopes will alleviate recent problems in providing housing to all students who wish to live on campus.
Construction of New Franklin is scheduled to begin in the upcoming weeks and the residential college is expected to open in August 2016.
Residential colleges have shown an upward trend in occupancy, running at 99 percent occupancy for the fall of 2012 and 98 percent occupancy for fall of 2013, significantly higher than the 90 percent occupancy in the fall of 2010, according to the Murray State 2013-14 Fact Book.
Historically, Murray State has struggled to provide enough housing for students at the beginning of the fall semester, when the most students are living on campus, said Jackie Dudley, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services.
Dudley said in the Fall of 2013, when Hester Residential College closed for renovations, Murray State housed students in suites constructed in the Curris Center and even temporarily placed some students in hotel rooms until space opened up on campus.
Students living in Clark Residential College and Richmond Residential College were asked to temporarily take on a third roommate.
The construction of a new residential college should prevent this from happening again, Dudley said.
“New Franklin will have 380 beds,” she said. “Old Franklin had about 300, so we’ll be adding more beds and that will help.”
Hoping not to have to send students off campus again, Old Franklin Residential College will not be torn down and will be used for housing in case the newer residential colleges reach maximum occupancy, Dudley said.
Old Richmond is currently used for the same purpose.
Fred Dietz, associate vice president of Enrollment Management, confirmed that Murray State resorted to housing students in hotel rooms when the residential colleges were at maximum capacity in 2013.
Housing students in hotel rooms is not a good option for the University, Dietz said.
“Students wouldn’t want to be in a hotel,” Dietz said. “It’s not really convenient.”
The University often finds itself in a balancing act between recruiting students and providing enough space for them, Dietz said.
He said being close to maximum occupancy is a good sign for investors because it shows the University can provide enough revenue to pay the bonds back.
“What we don’t want to do is all of the sudden not have enough students,” Dietz said.
Murray State plans on renovating White and Regents residential colleges after New Franklin is completed, Dudley said.
Renovations save the University in maintenance cost on the older buildings, but often bed space can be lost when common areas are made larger, as was the case during the renovation of Elizabeth Residential College.
Many universities nationwide have addressed this issue by hiring outside contractors to build and manage dormitories, including the University of the Kentucky and University of Louisville.
Although this method can be cheaper for the University, the cost would be pushed back to the students, said David Wilson, director of Housing and Residential Life.
Wilson said that the University looked into hiring a third party for the construction of a new College Courts, but the projected cost for students seemed unreasonable.
“University representatives exploring this type of partnership knew we would have a hard time selling this to students,” Wilson said.
Last year was the first year in more than 10 years that upperclassmen were asked to move off campus due to lack of space. Wilson said this is a good problem to have because it shows the great level of satisfaction students have with living on campus.
“Research has shown that students who have lived on campus for at least two years are more likely to get involved on campus, more likely to get to know a faculty member outside the classroom, more likely to report satisfaction with their experience and are more likely to graduate than students who have not lived on campus,” Wilson said.
Story by Zachary Orr, Staff writer