OPINION: Proposed Residence Hall Raises New Housing Concerns

With the on-campus freshman population growing every year, the question on everybody’s mind is “How will we house the freshmen as well the current on-campus students?” Gilbert Hall, the current freshman dorm, can house 459 students. With that number having already been surpassed at the beginning of the fall semester, there is a clear need for supplemental housing. Many of the upperclassmen buildings such as Patterson, Selden, Reed and Stickney have been on the UWA campus for over 40 years. These buildings have had minor renovations over the years but how many more years will the university be able to hold on to these very old buildings?

If housing were to build a new residence hall, it would take a minimum of a year a half to build on a rushed schedule. This short timeframe would also bring up safety and longevity concerns. Depending on the layout and amenities they decide to put in the new dorm, it’s estimated cost could meet or surpass the price of Hoover Phase Two, which is over $3,000 each year. In Hoover Phase Two, the layout is apartment-style with four single rooms, two baths, kitchen and living room. This layout, in my opinion, would be the best option for the new hall. This dorm should be co-ed like the other dorms on campus, unless administration decides otherwise.

My next concern is the potential location of the new dorm. Location plays a big part in where students plan to live. Many students try to live closer to the majority of their classes. From Hoover Apartments, for example, it is about a two-minute drive and a ten-minute walk to the closest education facility, Wallace Hall. With plentiful open space on that side of campus, the new building would most likely be at the back of the campus. Depending on where it is located, the building may not be an attractive living space for the students who don’t have cars or some other form of transportation.

The current parking for on-campus living is limited at certain dorms, such as Hoover Apartments and Patterson, because the parking lots are smaller. Hoover and Patterson parking lots have their parking spaces directly in front of the dorms, as does Reed. Unlike Hoover and Patterson, the other dorms on campus have other parking lots the residents are able to park in that are in front of or surrounding the dorm. With the new facility, if housing decides to put the parking lot directly in front of the dorm like with Hoover and Patterson, they should consider creating a visitor’s section. The current issue with on-campus parking is visitors often take up the parking spots allocated for the residents, which forces the residents to park in other lots and walk back to their rooms. There is an undeniable need for visitor parking at the new facility.

We have discussed on-campus housing, but what about the students who don’t live on campus? Should it be easier to find off-campus housing options? There are several apartment complexes, manufactured homes and houses up for rent in Livingston. The average rent and utilities vary based on where the student decides to live and if he or she has a roommate(s). The students who decided to live off-campus also have to compete with people in the community for rental space. Options for off-campus living are not always guaranteed as a reliable form of housing in this community. Many of the universities that surround UWA offer off-campus apartments to house students. Most students stay in these furnished apartments along with three roommates. Some apartments even come with washer and dryer unit. This could be a viable solution to eliminate some housing troubles in the future.

When asked if it was more affordable to live off campus, there were varied answers from students. Many UWA students said the cost was about the same, but you seem to have more freedom when you live off campus. Sarah Hansen, who is a current off-campus student, stated that living on campus was cheaper in her opinion, but that living off campus gives her the option to stay over the break without paying the extra fees. When a student lives off campus, he or she has to be more independent than students who live on campus. The students who live in this county have to pay rent, utilities, and food if they don’t have an on-campus meal plan. If the school provided off-campus options, some of this financial responsibility could be reduced. The National Center for Education Statistics stated that 43 percent of full-time undergraduate students are employed, and some of these students are working an average of 50 hour or more weekly. With these insights, I believe that it is financially easier for most to stay on campus.

Many questions and decisions will have to be made as this year progresses and the new resident hall comes into question. What will happen to the dorms the University decided to shut down, like Sisk? Will they turn into academic buildings like Spieth, or will they be demolished?  Will students have the option to have single rooms if they continue to use the dorms? How many students would this new dorm hold? Would this dorm be open to all students or a specific classification?  We will all just have to wait and see what the answer to these questions will be in the coming months.

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