More student residence halls on the list for state projects

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News & Events

January 25, 2012
Jan. 22, 2012[br]Premium content from [i]Boston Business Journal[/i], used with permission[br]By Mary Moore[br][br]The Massachusetts State College Building Authority sold $158 million in bonds in December to fund a handful of capital projects, and the biggest of these are two student residence halls at Bridgewater State and Westfield State universities.[br][br]The construction of the two residence halls which comprise about $105 million of the projects and are scheduled to open in 2013 illustrates the trend of the nine state universities housing more students, state university officials said. Long considered "commuter schools" by many students, state schools now see more applicants interested in living on campus, officials said. And increasingly, state universities are meeting that demand.[br][br]"There is a higher rate of success (among students)," said [b]Dana Mohler-Faria[/b], president of Bridgewater State. "We see better and more participation by residents."[br][br]The State College Building Authority is putting out bids now for the excavation, structural and steel portions of the Bridgewater and Westfield State residential hall projects, with bids for the finished aspects of the projects to be bid in the spring, saidEdward Adelman, executive director of the authority.[br][br]More student residence halls are likely to be on the project list for state college bond funds moving forward, Adelman said[br][br]"The next real area of unmet need is Worcester and Salem, where we're housing less than 30 percent of the undergraduate students," said Adelman. "We'll continue to look at demographics and demand every year."[br][br]The remainder of the state authority's December bond funding will cover the cost of a $15 million student wellness center at Salem State University, $7 million in repairs of the student center at Fitchburg State University and $9 million in improvements to the student center at Westfield State University, Adelman said.[br][br]At Westfield State, the new 400-student residence hall will help absorb an overflow of residential students. The school, which has capped enrollment at 4,500 for the past several years, has 70 students living in a motel and 180 students crammed into three-bed dorm rooms designed for two beds. An additional 100 students are living in rooms the college plans to take back for office space.[br][br]Out of 4,500 students, currently 2,900 live on campus, and with the new residence hall, Westfield State will house about 3,300, saidGerald Hayes, vice president of administration and finance.[br][br]"Last year, we turned away 500 students we accepted because they wanted to live on campus and we couldn't accommodate them," said University President Evan Dobelle.[br][br]Meanwhile, Bridgewater State University is building a 500-bed residence hall that also will contain space for a counseling and health center. This is the fifth residence hall the university has built in the past decade, and the school has increased its residential population by 88 percent over the same period, said Mohler-Faria. About 95 percent of freshmen applicants to Bridgewater State request housing, he said, and the waiting list has between 800 and 1,500 students each year. Bridgewater State has about 9,400 undergraduate students, about 3,900 of whom live on campus.[br][br]"Over the last decade we've made a conscious effort to meet as much demand as possible," he said. "I'd love to get 50 percent of the students on campus."[br][br]The bonds are set to be paid off with student fees. The "true interest cost" listed for the sale was 4.11 percent.