Housing in high demand at CMU

A pair of welders works on frames for balconies at the Orchard Avenue student apartments, Colorado Mesa University’s new residence hall at Twelfth Street and Orchard Avenue, on Wednesday

Even with residence-hall rooms for nearly 2,000 students and a 192-bed apartment complex under construction, Colorado Mesa University isn’t likely to satisfy true housing demands this fall.

A recent campus-wide housing study that gathered 1,347 valid survey responses from students found 546 Colorado Mesa students would “definitely” have been interested in moving into campus housing last fall if they had been able to find a room. Another 34 Western Colorado Community College students said they would “definitely” live on campus if the community college had housing.

Pat Doyle, Colorado Mesa vice president of finance, said the demand at the community college probably isn’t enough to justify building a residence hall on that campus at this time. But he said the study results are “pretty compelling.” Doyle said he expects the university’s board of trustees to decide at its meeting in March whether to begin construction on another residence hall this summer.

This is the fifth housing-demand study to be conducted for the university by Maryland-based campus housing and real estate consulting firm Anderson Strickland. Past studies by the company convinced trustees to build residence halls on North, Bunting and Orchard avenues in 2008-09, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“They’ve been right so far,” Doyle said. “Each time they found there was significant demand, and we followed up with North Avenue, then Bunting, and now Orchard Avenue. We still think we have demand in the range of 500 students.”

The new apartment complex will sate some of the demand, but on top of the 546 students who wanted to live on campus, the university placed 90 students at the Residence Inn this fall while they waited for on-campus housing. The university also would like to eventually end its rental contract for 66 students at Four Points Apartments.

Colorado Mesa enrolled 8,844 students in the fall, a nearly 60 percent increase compared with fall 2007, before the three newest student-housing complexes were added.

The university requires unmarried freshmen and sophomores under age 21 to live on campus or with family. But the huge influx of students in recent years led to some exceptions. Colorado Mesa sophomore Ben Shipman, 19, moved off campus after he received an email this summer from the university asking him to consider giving up his spot in a residence hall in exchange for $400 credit at the campus bookstore.

Shipman said students who want rooms have to act fast or wait for someone like him to move out.

“I had two friends leave last year, and their room in Grand Mesa (Residence Hall) filled up fast,” he said.

Shay Hoots, 20, another Colorado Mesa sophomore, said housing has filled quickly ever since he enrolled last year. He was told early in the year by his resident assistant at Bunting Student Housing that if he or anyone else in the residence hall left, their spot would be filled immediately.

Hoots said he knows one student who transferred to a junior college, and later tried to move back into a Colorado Mesa residence hall. By then, his spot was gone. “They couldn’t find a room for him so he lives in Clifton with family,” Hoots said.

Doyle said the university tries to place all freshmen, even if its in a hotel, and most sophomores but has made exceptions. He said the university has no plans to change the freshman and sophomore housing requirement.

“I think the policy has served us well. It helps with retention” to engage students in campus life, Doyle said.

Sarah Wood, a 20-year-old senior at Colorado Mesa, said she participated more in campus activities when she lived on-campus. But she doesn’t think they should keep the two-year requirement if there aren’t enough rooms. “All other schools require a semester or a year,” she said.


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