Officials at Western Kentucky University hope a new 10-year housing plan will make the university more competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining students.
"We want to make sure that we’re able to offer a similar product or better product than other schools," Brian Kuster, vice president of student affairs, told the Daily News on Tuesday.
The first phase of the plan is set to begin in the fall with renovations to Northeast and Southwest halls and the construction of a an L-shaped residence hall along College Heights Boulevard. The total cost of the master plan changes is expected to reach $120,469,099 over a 10-year period.
"This plan doesn't necessarily add new beds," he said. "We're replacing beds. There will be some additional beds, but we're not looking to add 400 new beds to our campus capacity. It'll be more replacing beds and reconfiguring beds."
He said that includes moving away from community bathrooms to give students more privacy and control.
"Currently 72 percent of our capacity are community bath residence halls," Kuster said. "What this plan will do is to create more hotel, suite-style" housing.
Kuster said the university currently has 21.8 percent of that type of housing. Through the master plan, he said, the goal is to bring that to a little less than 56 percent.
That plan doesn't include construction of new apartments and focuses more on improving housing for freshman and sophomores to help recruit and retain them.
Noah Stevens, an Elizabethtown sophomore and Honors College student, said Minton Hall's community bathrooms "prompted my moving out of Minton Hall as soon as possible.” He's staying at Bates Runner Hall next semester, which features private bathrooms.
"If you have your own bathroom in your room you at least have a method of control," he said. "I would say the classic two students to a room with a community bathroom down the hall is kind of going by the wayside."
Stevens said there's a need for housing improvements on campus, and described Minton Hall as "something out of my grandparent’s generation."
He added that "dorms were not a strong selling point" when he considered coming to WKU.
"They seemed relatively outdated and did not possess some of the amenities of the other universities that I looked at," he said.
The perception is common among his peers, said Stevens, whose had conversations about the University of Kentucky's "brand new state-of-the-art dorm facilities.”
"So when we have conversations amongst ourselves we’re kind of in agreement that dorms could be updated," he said.
The plan will also divide different areas of campus into residential zones. They include a "Freshman Village" on the southend, a community for upperclassmen along College Heights Boulevard and a "Global Learning Village" across the street from the Honors College/International Center.
In Pearce Ford Tower, an all-female residence hall where most freshmen women live, students are being assigned by major by floor for programming purposes. Additionally, Barnes Campbell Hall and Bemis Lawrence Hall will be torn down and replaced with dorms featuring "pod-style" bathrooms. The bathrooms are shared by a smaller number of rooms.
While both dorms are unavailable, a new L-shaped residence hall along College Heights Boulevard will be used as swing space. Work on that dorm will begin after homecoming in the fall and will take 16 months.
Kuster said the goal is preserve quad space with an area commonly known as "The Valley."
"In our design, we're talking about building some terraces so that students can sit outside on terrace," he said.
"Also on the ground floor, we would include a food service option. ... This would be more of a smaller version of Fresh Food" and have an option for late night service, he said.
Kuster feels confident the Student Life Foundation can finance the changes.
"Over the last 15 years, 16 years, the Student Life Foundation has created over $25 million dollars in excess surplus funds that have been reinvested back into facilities," he said. "They're generating between $2 and $4 million a year in surpluses."
When it comes to possibly paying more for housing, Stevens said it may not be a problem for students.
"I feel like students are willing to pay a little bit more if they know they’re getting something that’s worth their money," he said.
— Follow reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @aaron_muddbgdn or visit bgdailynews.com.