The living quarters offered by the University of Wyoming are outdated, university administrators say, and are hurting enrollment at UW.
Hoping to deal with this problem, the UW Board of Trustees hired KSQ Design to develop a 10-year housing plan, approving the proposal made by administrators during the board’s July meeting in Rock Springs.
KSQ Design will evaluate the university’s housing situation and craft a 10-year plan for improvement — one that must revamp the residence halls while remaining aware of the state’s current economic downtown.
UW’s 50-year-old residence halls simply cannot compare to the newer living quarters found at University of Northern Colorado, Colorado University or Colorado State University, said Eric Webb, UW executive director of Residence Life and Dining Services.
“We’re not as competitive as many of the other schools,” Webb said. “There are times when we tour somebody around campus and they say, ‘Wow, campus is beautiful, but I just can’t live in that hall,’ or ‘I just can’t live in that room.’”
The KSQ Design plan will also examine UW’s four apartment complexes, Washakie Dining Hall and the houses on Fraternity and Sorority rows, with the goal of constructing a plan to guide the next 10 years of improvements to campus living options.
“Part of that process is trying to figure out what we need today,” Webb said.
Webb said KSQ was chosen over the other seven applicant firms because of its work all around the country, but also for its focus and experience in the Rocky Mountain region.
KSQ Design already began gathering information about UW’s housing situation — and student attitude toward the housing situation — during a listening session they hosted on campus earlier this month.
The university’s residence halls have stood for five decades and many lack the amenities prospective students could find in Colorado or elsewhere, such as bigger rooms, private bathrooms, more common and learning-focused areas and air conditioning.
This is the second time in three years the university has set about crafting a housing plan.
In 2015, the university commissioned Mahlum Architects to produce a similar study of UW’s housing and dining needs. Mahlum presented the board with a 10-year, $200 million improvement plan that involved tearing down and rebuilding all of the residence halls.
But the Mahlum study was set aside when, in 2016, the state legislature slashed the university’s budget by roughly $41 million.
The KSQ Design plan will cover the same span of time, but be less ambitious than the Mahlum study. Rebuilding the residence halls from the ground up is no longer possible, administrators said.
“At the time when Mahlum was looking at it, we were looking at wholesale change,” said Bill Mai, vice president for administration, in May. “I don’t think that’s the goal now.”
However, the new plan might still call for the complete replacement of some dorms, especially Hill and Crane Halls, which are the oldest.
KSQ Design will be paid $290,930 to complete the study, with $60,000 of that figure coming from ASUW. University administration plans to pay back the cost of the housing plan with revenue generated by the residence halls throughout the next two years.