CWU feeling the pressure of rising enrollment

Rune’s story

On a cold Ellensburg evening in late 2016, junior broadcast journalism major Rune Torgersen was hanging out in his Getz Short apartment with some friends. He felt a drip on his bed and assumed a friend had spilled a drink. He then looked up and realized the ceiling was dripping. When he stood up to push the ceiling tile over, his hand punched right through it. Torgersen immediately called maintenance; they arrived quickly.

“The first time they rolled through, they really didn’t have an answer for me,” Torgersen said. “They lent me a bucket.”

Maintenance told Torgersen snowpack had melted and leaked through a hairline fracture in the concrete above his room. The snowpack was so thick maintenance could not get through it to fix the leak at the time. Maintenance covered the hole in his ceiling with plastic and directed the leak to the corner of the room where it collected in the bucket. Torgersen said he did not have to empty the bucket very often.

“My room kind of looked like a construction zone for the better part of two months while we waited for winter to be over,” Torgersen said.

Torgersen said maintenance did the best they could with the resources they had.

“Once the snow was gone, they rolled up, checked to make sure it wasn’t dripping anymore and replaced the tiles,” Torgersen said. “Everything looked good as new.”

Maintenance was able to handle the situation rather quickly in the winter of 2017. However, with rising enrollment and residence halls at max capacity, the university can no longer close down halls like they prefer.

“It’s a better situation for them [housing] to be able to take an entire residence hall out of service for a year so they can go in and do the maintenance and painting and roof repair,” said Vice President of Enrollment Management Sharon O’Hare.

Every single bed in residence halls were filled last year, O’Hare said. She hopes maintenance will be able to catch up on their work this year.

Enrollment at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year was 11,047. At the start of the 2017-2018, it had jumped 5.3 percent to 11,635.

What’s behind the rise in enrollment?

The simple answer is money.

In the last few years, the university’s budget from the state has been slashed, according to O’Hare. Just a few years ago, the state provided about 70 percent of CWU’s funding while the university was expected to contribute the remaining 30 percent with tuition dollars.

Now, the budget has been flipped. CWU is expected to contribute 70 percent of the budget and the state covers the remaining 30 percent. According to O’Hare, the university has two options to cover costs. The first is to increase tuition costs and the second is to keep tuition consistent, but admit more students. CWU’s objective over the last few years has been to increase freshman class sizes, O’Hare said.

“Now we’re a tuition-dependent university. We have to balance not putting the burden on the student for tuition with the fact that we have to run an airline [CWU],” O’Hare said.

According to O’Hare, admissions had expected enrollment to remain consistent even though admissions increased due to high school students applying to more universities than ever.

“From what we heard from the high school counselors, Central became the hot school; there’s a buzz about Central,” O’Hare said.

How does enrollment affect maintenance schedules?

According to Associate Dean of Student Living Jenna Hyatt, rising enrollment has delayed plans to close older living spaces on campus. Facilities such as North Hall which is in the heart of campus and the Wahle apartment complex in north campus were planned to be shut down nearly a decade ago, according to a 15-year comprehensive housing master plan created in 2006.

“We started growing as a university and there were goals put forth from the trustees and the president saying we want to grow in this way,” Hyatt said. “That then created an opportunity for us to think differently and adjust the plan.”

Dugmore Hall, a new residence hall currently being constructed on the northwest corner of campus, is expected to open in fall of 2019 and house 400 students. Dugmore will relieve some of the pressure that housing is facing, according to Hyatt.

Construction of Dugmore Hall began on June 7, on the corner of Dean Nicholson Boulevard and Wildcat Way. The new residence hall was named after Owen Dugmore, who was a CWU psychology professor for 45 years.

“We needed Dugmore so that we could also… at times take down a building to get in there and do the hard [maintenance] work,” Hyatt said.

Larger renovation projects in facilities are funded through capital budgets, which the state legislature controls, Hyatt said. For capital projects, the university must decide if they will outsource or assign the maintenance staff to it. The university prefers the facilities crew to keep up on deferred maintenance of university buildings, according to Hyatt.

“Sometimes you’re digging deeper into the problem if you take them [maintenance staff] away,” Hyatt said. “You just delay work that has to be done in here as preventative maintenance.”

Deferred maintenance refers to work that has been put off, but is necessary for the building’s health, Hyatt said.

According to O’Hare, facilities maintenance prefers to close a building down for an entire academic year to complete preventative and deferred maintenance. But with enrollment rising and residence halls at max capacity, the university cannot currently shut down a building for maintenance because housing has filled every room on campus. Maintenance schedules are even limited during the summer because of camp attendees staying in the residence halls, Hyatt said.

How does enrollment affect housing?

In the fall of 2017, four students were placed into a second-floor lounge of Kamola Hall. This was due to overcrowding from one of the largest freshman classes in recent CWU history. According to ASCWU Vice President for Student Life and Facilities Jocelyn Matheny, housing started the year at over 100 percent capacity.

“That’s the solution that they [housing] came up with,” Matheny said. “Because we had more students than we had designated bedrooms, they took some of the study lounges and closed them off more so they were less public spaces and put beds in there.”

Some of the newer residence halls such as Barto Hall were designed to accommodate extra students in smaller study lounges, Matheny said. Considering how old Kamola Hall is, she was uncertain if its study lounges were also designed to accommodate overflow.

According to Assistant Director of Admissions JoAnn Page, Hyatt and O’Hare, university housing does not set a cap for admissions. University housing guarantees living space for all incoming freshmen regardless of the space they have.

“We don’t tell them [admissions] to stop, that’s not our role,” Hyatt said. “Our role is to be very involved and aware of what the enrollment patterns are.”

Over the last ten years, the freshmen on-campus living percentage has dropped from 97 percent in 2008 to 88 percent this year. This is the lowest percentage for freshmen on-campus in the last decade. According to Page, freshmen are allowed to live off-campus if they complete a housing waiver. Page’s own children attended CWU and lived at home as freshmen.

Both Page and O’Hare were unsure if the increase in freshmen living off-campus correlated with current housing capacity.

Solutions

According to Page, housing has converted some rooms in dorms such as North Hall and Wilson Hall from single occupancy to double occupancy to accommodate the overflow of freshman. One of the oldest residence halls on campus, Munson Hall, located across the street from Kamola Hall, was previously closed off to students and used for conferences and visitors, according to Matheny. Due to overflow, housing has reopened Munson to students in the last two years.

Single occupancy residence hall rooms are becoming a rarity at CWU. Rising enrollment has forced many halls, including Wilson to double occupancy rooms.

Some residence halls such as North Hall have been forced to accommodate the overflow of students. North Hall is no longer a single occupancy only residence hall.

Past projects such as the Wendell Hill construction and Barto Hall renovation were scheduled to be completed by 2009 and 2010 respectively, according to the comprehensive housing master plan. Both projects were not completed until 2012. According to Hyatt, the housing master plan is fluid.

“As any good plan, it’s been a fantastic guide for us,” Hyatt said. “We can adjust based on fluctuations.”

Matheny is confident Dugmore will indeed be completed by the fall 2019 target. She is confident in the Dugmore planning team.

“I’ve been working with the planning team and they are rolling,” Matheny said. “This planning team has learned a lot from our previous hall to be able to do things efficient and do it right.”

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