By Drew Pizzini
A projected drop in enrollment may be the motivation behind the Indiana University of Pennsylvania's ongoing housing redevelopment project.
According to a 2004 report by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, college enrollment is expected to decline within the next two to three years.
The number of high school graduates seeking admission into the system's 14 schools is expected to ebb following an attendance peak in 2008. From there, a decline in freshman enrollment is forecast through 2013-2014.
One tactic to combat declining enrollment is updating student housing, according to John Grossman, president of a planning firm working directly with the university to remap much of the campus perimeter.
"People looking at colleges are going to look at the academics and the location," he said in an Oct. 13 telephone interview.
Grossman's firm, Akron, Ohio-based EG&G, plans to redraw the campus' main thoroughfares sometime next year to improve traffic flow and create lucrative real estate locations for residential developers. But the overhaul of student housing does not end at the campus border.
On the campus itself, the reconstruction of Wahr, Langham and the Tri Halls along Grant Street is a hard sight to miss. According to David A. Burdette, vice president for administration and finance, in an Oct. 24 email exchange, the updated on-campus residence halls are "not an expansion, but rather a replacement of the existing dormitories."
"This project has developed over years of research including a survey...that revealed that students of today do not want the old dormitory facilities, but rather, suite-type living and more privacy," Burdette wrote.
Overall, the project - marketed as IUP's Residential Revival Project -- comes with a superlative attached. IUP President Tony Atwater told a Dec. 4 meeting of the university Senate that it is "the largest student-housing project of its kind in the nation."
The dorms will mimic apartment-style living, offering more single-occupancy rooms, private baths and common kitchens and living spaces.
The additional amenities and the new dorms' central location will come with a new price tag, too. According to Leonard J. Kasubick, IUP's associate director of housing development, in a Nov. 20 SGA forum, a two-person shared dorm - the most basic room arrangement - will cost $2,835 per semester. That's an 80 percent increase in the current rate of $1,575 for the same arrangement in the existing dorms. (Dorm rates are posted on the IUP Web site at www.iup.edu/house/rates/.)
IUP isn't the only PASSHE school revamping its residence halls in an effort to draw from a waning pool of prospective students.
According to Michael LeMasters, director of IUP's Office of Housing and Residential Life, other State System of Higher Education schools - such as Slippery Rock University and the California University of Pennsylvania -- are similarly updating their dormitories.
"We're very aware of what the schools are doing that we're competing with," LeMasters said at a Nov. 20 SpeakUP IUP forum. "We have the same developer."
Consistent with the tapering enrollment, the total capacity of the new structures will remain close to the current level of about 3,800 students.
For more information, including timetables and sketches, on the Residential Revival Project, visit http://www.iup.edu/newhousing/
For cost information on existing dormitories, visit http://www.iup.edu/house/rates/