The board of trustees at National Park College on Wednesday announced plans to expand the college's on-campus housing during its Building and Campus Development Committee meeting, ahead of the regular monthly board meeting.
The new structure, which would be constructed next to Dogwood Hall at a cost not to exceed $12 million, would add between 166-180 beds, making the total bed count for the college around 350-360.
Last April, the board chose to postpone plans to build a larger structure on the hill near the Ish Stivers Building, on the southeast end of campus, after costs had escalated to over $17 million.
Kelli Embry, NPC's vice president for administration, noted the increased demand the college has seen for additional housing. The college upped its bed count from 180 to 210 in the fall of 2021, and increased it again in the fall of 2022, to 240 beds, by "tripling up" its double rooms.
"In fall 2022, we filled all of our available beds and had a waitlist of over 100," she said. "We are again offering 240 beds in the fall of 2023. Of the 240 beds, only 79 are currently available. That is, 67.08% are preleased for fall 2023. Last year at the same time, we only had 20.4% released."
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Embry noted there were currently 30 applications pending and over 55 additional inquiries for housing as of March 24. She said based on the current demand, Servitas -- NPC's housing development firm out of Irving, Texas -- projects the college could fill an additional 200 beds if it had the capacity.
"After extensive analysis, Servitas has suggested that we reconsider adding housing, but build it next to the existing structure, Dogwood Hall," she said.
Dogwood Hall opened in August 2020 as the school's first on-campus residence hall.
"This location provides us with significant construction and administrative cost savings," she said.
In order to build at this location, NPC will have to relocate its maintenance facility. Embry said NPC's on-call architect, John McMorran, of Lewis Architects Engineers, is working on a viable solution to fit within its budget. The team completed a survey of the area to get a better sense of the type of structure it could fit.
She said it will likely include additional parking, as well.
Funding will come from a combination of school funds and funds generated from a bond issue.
"We anticipate the total project cost will not exceed $12 million," she said. "For next steps, we are working on a timeline that will include the approvals and resolutions needed for the maintenance move for the construction project for the new residence hall and for the issuance of general obligation bonds.
"We should have the first proposals ready for our April meeting and these will most likely be for the maintenance move. And housing proposals will most likely be presented in May."
NPC President John Hogan said student housing has been a top priority for the college for a while.
"If we were to ask students on campus, 'What is the one thing we could invest in that would make the most difference for you?' The answer would be student housing," he said.
He noted it not only leads to academic success, but attracts new students to the area.
"Our students have learned to ask for what they need because we respond to them and we don't take this trust for granted. This need for housing is a critical one and I'm grateful that we were able to regroup and identify a path forward. Many lives will be impacted because of the ability to provide safe, affordable housing options for our students," he said.
Jerry Thomas, NPC's vice president for student affairs, added that, anecdotally, students are staying longer and graduating more often as a result of the housing availability. He noted library usage has also increased.
Of the present housing on campus, he said athletes make up about 60% of the residents. Embry noted it is particularly important for the growing international student population on campus.
In order to keep the student experience where it needs to be, she said neither the new rooms -- nor those in Dogwood Hall -- will be designed to "triple up."
"What we have found is that's not ideal for students, for the quality of their experience, or for retention in those rooms. Typically if a student can get out of a triple and move to a single or a double, that's what they want," she said.
Board Chair Joyce Craft thanked Embry and her team for working to reassess the options and bring a plan forward
"Sure we have a delay but despite the challenging economic environment, our administrative team has worked to find a solution to answer the need for additional on-campus housing. I am proud of their perseverance in meeting the needs of our students," she said.