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As it looks to expand rapidly, NDSU firms up plans for new $40 million dorm

FARGO -- North Dakota State University has firmed up its plans on an almost $40 million, seven-to-eight-story residence hall for sophomores. The project would be the first new dormitory the university has built since 2008 and would come as the sc...

FARGO -- North Dakota State University has firmed up its plans on an almost $40 million, seven-to-eight-story residence hall for sophomores.

The project would be the first new dormitory the university has built since 2008 and would come as the school's goals to expand enrollment aggressively have generated significant interest in private construction in north Fargo aimed at students. Some of those student-focused housing plans proposed by private developers have drawn protests from existing residents.

NDSU presented the dorm project to the State Board of Higher Education this week and will request approval from the Legislature next year, with construction tentatively scheduled to start June 2017.

The dorm would open to students in fall 2019, said Residence Life Director Rian Nostrum.

Nostrum said the dorm would have 300 to 450 beds, though he's hoping for 400 to 450, and it would be suite-style, with a ratio of four double bedrooms to each private bathroom. The building would have student study spaces and a common mini kitchen.

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It would be built to the west of two current high rises, Seim and Pavek halls, and would be significantly longer than Seim and Pavek to accommodate that number of beds. Currently, that spot on campus has a basketball court, crisscrossing sidewalks and a chiller, or air conditioning unit.

In a possible first for NDSU, the dorm would be reserved for first-time transfer students and sophomores, who often get the short stick when it comes to campus housing, officials say.

Each year, the university turns away more than 600 students who request to live on campus, President Dean Bresciani told the state board on Tuesday.

Because freshmen are guaranteed housing and upperclassmen are given priority, most of those are sophomores.

"The tragedy there is that our biggest retention issue is sophomores, and one of the best-known solutions for student retention is living on campus," Bresciani said.

Bresciani announced in October a goal of growing enrollment to 18,000 students by 2020, up from about 14,500 students last fall. Since then, the city has seen a surge of developers planning student-oriented apartment buildings in the areas surrounding NDSU, often to the dismay of nearby residential neighborhoods.

Some of those neighborhood organizations have criticized NDSU for not building more on campus. The most recent addition to campus housing was Mathew Living Learning Center West, which opened in 2008.

This new dorm is estimated to cost $39.5 million and would be funded through a local revenue bond, to be paid off by student room and board fees over 30 years, Nostrum said.

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Although the project would require no state funding, the Legislature still has to "authorize for us as a state agent to go into that type of debt," Nostrum said.

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