K-State to add first new dorm in 50 years

By Bill Felber

Some time within the next two to three years, Kansas State University expects to construct and open the first new student dormitory on campus in a half century.

KSU President Kirk Schulz disclosed that plan Thursday during an interview with editors of The Mercury.

“We are going through the long, arduous process of building a new residence hall,” Schulz said. He estimated that it would be “a year from now” before construction began, with another year to actually open the dorm.

Over the past decade, the university has focused its residence hall efforts on the substantial renovation of the Jardine Complex. But it has not actually constructed an on-campus residence hall since the four-unit complex at the corner of Claflin Road and North Manhattan Avenue was opened in the early 1960s. At that time, K-State’s enrollment was about 12,000; it is now about twice that.

“I doubt there’s another major university in the country that hasn’t opened a dorm in the last half century,” Schulz said.

Schulz did not indicate precisely where the dorm would be built, but he did confirm that it would feature a higher-end living experience than is the staple of the existing residence hall facilities on campus. Among the likely features: Suites with private or semi-private restrooms and study areas.

He also acknowledged that such facilities would have a “higher price point” than the existing residence halls, although he did not indicate a specific price range.

Schulz said the construction costs would be paid off through bonds and fees, and he confirmed that he did not expect any portion of the project to be state-funded.

On other topics, the university president expressed a desire to see “sustained, moderate growth” on campus on the order of 100 additional students per year. But, citing aggressive and successful recruiting programs, he conceded the possibility of growth beyond that number, and he added that if growth accelerates there could be implications for the size of the campus.

“If we got up to 30,000, you would have to look outside the current footprint,” he said.

Much of that growth has been in the area of international students. K-State presently enrolls about 1,000 international undergraduate students and a similar number of graduate students, but while there are more than 100 nations represented within the KSU student body, most of the international students are from China. Schulz said he would like to see the university “diversify the mix of countries on our campus.”

He expressed continued confidence in the future of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility on campus, but conceded that “we need steel work coming out of the ground” to ensure the facility’s development. The problem, he said, is that the NBAF is caught up in a larger political struggle related to the budget that is being played out on the national stage.

“It’s an internal battle in Washington and we’re just caught in the middle,” he said.

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