UW dorms

Cars full of freshmen, parents and belongings line up at the University of Wyoming dorms during move-in day for the fall semester on Aug. 29, 2014, in Laramie. The university hopes to add more student housing over the next five years.

FILE, STAR-TRIBUNE

The University of Wyoming hopes to have at least two new residence halls built or under construction by 2022, and the school’s board of trustees approved $300,000 for a firm to help make that goal a reality.

The university — which houses 2,100 students across seven residence halls — last built a dorm in 1967. It last had a broad housing and facilities plan in 2001. But a five-year strategic plan approved last week calls for the creation of a 10-year housing strategy to be implemented by 2022, along with two to three residence halls at least under construction.

“The UW Board of Trustees last week approved the expenditure of up to $300,000 for development of a 10-year housing plan by KSQ Design, a national planning, architecture, engineering and interior design company that specializes in campus planning and student life facilities,” according to a university press release.

In previous studies of its facilities, UW found that its residence halls did not meet students’ expectations, “putting the university at a competitive disadvantage with competitor institutions.”

Eric Webb, the executive director of residence life at UW, said that housing on campus “is structurally sound, it’s clean, it’s very well maintained, but it’s just very basic.”

“We don’t have the amenities, we don’t have the common space, we don’t have air conditioning,” he said. That has an effect as students compare UW to other universities. “We do hear consistently from admissions (staff) ... ‘Oh, this university is great, but I’m not sure I can live here.’”

Webb said the plan to build two to three new halls in the coming years is “aggressive” but that residence staff is optimistic that the work can be done. He said he anticipated new buildings would have more community and academic space.

The push is part of a broader effort by new President Laurie Nichols to map out the university’s future. The strategic plan, designed over the past 10 months, also emphasizes recruiting and retaining more students at the state’s only public four-year institution. By 2022, UW hopes to have 13,500 students — an increase of more than 1,100 compared to its current numbers.

To achieve that, “the university is soliciting proposals from firms for a study of UW’s enrollment capacity,” according to the same press release. The review would examine the school’s capacity given its current resources and the cost of adding the number of students officials hope to in the coming years.

From a residence hall standpoint, Webb said there’s been available space for at least 30 years. Often, UW leaves one residence hall empty for an entire year.

Whichever firm examines the university’s enrollment capacity will also look into offering reduced tuition for out-of-state students in Colorado and Nebraska.

Earlier this year, lawmakers considered a measure to cut tuition for those students as UW looks to attract more regional students, but the bill was ultimately defeated in the Senate. The bill would have charged Nebraska and Colorado students 175 percent of tuition; currently, out-of-state students are charged four times what Wyomingites pay.

It’s unclear what the university might charge Colorado and Nebraska transplants. The university wants to commission a study that would look at “the level of growth needed to overcome any losses in current tuition revenues” from those students.

Earlier this year, the university announced two new scholarships for community college graduates from nearby states. One offers 150 percent tuition to associate’s degree holders from 14 nearby states, including Colorado. The second has the same requirements but is exclusively for Nebraska students.

In January, UW enrollment specialist Mary Aguayo said the scholarships were created to boost transfers to Laramie.

“Currently, transfer students are 42 percent of the incoming class at UW,” she said in an email, “and we’d love to attract even more students from Wyoming and the region to continue their education at UW.”

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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