Montana State University

MSU exploring possibility of new residence hall and dining renovations

September 6, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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Montana State University is exploring the possibility of building a 400-bed residence hall to accommodate its increased student enrollment, which has grown 24 percent in the past six years and is expected to go over 15,000 this fall – a new record. 

The university will provide an informational report on the subject to the Montana Board of Regents during the board’s regular meeting, Sept. 18-19 at the campus of Montana Tech of the University of Montana in Butte.

During the same six years that overall enrollment has grown, so has student occupancy in the university’s residence halls – by 31 percent or 870 students.

“We’ve been able to manage our growth over these past six years, but looking ahead we can definitely utilize more residence hall space – even in the unlikely event that enrollment were to decline significantly,” said Terry Leist, MSU vice president for Administration and Finance.  

In recent years, MSU has converted 272 rooms from single to double occupancy; provided 218 freshmen with housing in family and graduate housing apartments; converted visitor apartments and lounge areas to house 192 students.  A new residence hall complex would help recapture those spaces for their original use prior to the recent multi-year enrollment increase. MSU does have 93 new beds with the addition of new Gallatin Hall – which opened this fall – and renovations in the historic Quad F Hall.

A 400-bed residence hall would cost roughly $35 million. If approved, the university would request the Board of Regents to issue bonds to finance its construction, with construction estimated to be completed in summer 2016. The bonds would be repaid with student housing fees.

A new residence hall would be used almost exclusively to house freshman students.

“There is ample data nationally, that freshmen who live on campus their first years – making friends, joining clubs, finding study partners – are far more likely to stay in college than those who live off campus,” Leist said. “On-campus housing – especially quality campus housing – is a key factor in keeping students in school and getting them to graduate.”

An independent consulting firm, Brailsford and Dunlavey, reviewed MSU’s housing system to see if a public-private partnership for a residence hall would be better alternative than MSU building the structure itself.

“Several factors contributed to the consultant’s recommendation that we pursue this project in a conventional manner,” Leist said, “including our internal expertise with freshmen housing, low interest rates and our available debt capacity.”

Along with a new residence hall, the university is also examining the potential for $18 million in bonds for the renovation to its aging dining facilities, which have seen a corresponding increase in use and now serve 6,500 meals each weekday. The renovations would replace equipment and infrastructure, much of it dating from the 1950s and 1960s and redesigning the halls for greater seating capacity, improved disability access, and a more contemporary feel. If approved, renovations to Miller Dining Hall would be completed in time for a fall 2014 opening; renovations to Harrison Dining Hall would be completed in time for a fall 2015 opening; and renovations to Hannon Dining Hall would be completed in time for a fall 2015 or fall 2016 opening.

Contact: Tracy Ellig, (406) 994-5607 or tellig@montana.edu