Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Southeast Missouri Looks to New Greek Housing

Southeast preparing freshmen housing plan
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

Southeast Missouri State University may turn three of its five fraternity and sorority residence halls into freshmen housing and construct a new complex for the Greek-letter organizations.

The five-building, 300-bed "Greek Village" would feature buildings resembling townhouses rather than traditional residence halls, said Dr. Dennis Holt, vice president of administration and enrollment management.

The board of regents at its meeting Monday authorized school officials to prepare conceptual designs and develop a funding proposal. School president Dr. Ken Dobbins said detailed plans could be presented to the regents by September and construction could get underway later this year.

The proposed project could cost an estimated $17 million, Dobbins said Tuesday.
School officials are considering issuing revenue bonds that would be paid off with some of the money generated by housing fees paid by students who live on campus.

Dobbins said the Greek Village could be phased in over two to three years with at least two of the village buildings opening in the fall of 2008 if the regents decide to go ahead with the project.

School officials said they proposed the new housing complex partly because of a need for more campus housing for freshmen. The university expects to have its largest freshman class in history when classes begin in August. About 1,800 first-time students are expected to be enrolled this fall compared to 1,518 a year ago. Freshmen enrollment is expected to dip slightly in succeeding years, but Dobbins said the university expects to enroll nearly 1,700 freshmen for the 2008 fall semester and a similar number for the 2009 fall semester.

The project also would include the conversion of 170 two-person rooms in Dearmont residence hall to single-occupancy rooms and the installation of air-conditioning units in the rooms. Southeast is one of only a few Missouri universities to have a residence hall that isn't air-conditioned, officials said.

Southeast doesn't allow freshmen to have private rooms. Even so, the university still has averaged 230 students -- sophomores and upperclassmen -- in private rooms annually over the last four years, school officials said.

The huge number of freshmen this fall will reduce the number of private rooms because some of those rooms will have to have double occupancy, officials said. This year's enrollment will allow for only 90 single rooms, Dobbins said. By the 2008-2009 school year, no single rooms would be available without the proposed housing project, he said.

"It is going to be crowded," Holt said of campus housing.

Fraternities and sororities currently are housed in five buildings that form the Group Housing complex north of the Towers high-rise residence halls.

But the buildings have community-style shower and rest rooms that don't appeal to today's students, officials said. A growing number of students in fraternities and sororities at Southeast have opted to remain in suite-style residence halls or move off campus rather than reside in Group Housing.

Offering suite-style housing in which four students would have separate bedrooms and share a bathroom would help the university recruit and retain more students, Holt said.

The student housing would be built on university grounds, Dobbins said.

Holt said school officials have made no final decisions as to location or even the feasibility of the project.

"We are not committed to anything at this point," he said.