In the face of rising freshman enrollment and the impending closure of an aging residence hall, Bowling Green State University is working to squeeze in more students who want to live on campus.
“We definitely are going to have too much demand for the amount of capacity for on-campus housing we’ll have,” said Sarah Waters, BGSU’s director of residence life, of the 2017 school year.
According to figures released earlier this fall, BGSU saw a 4.5 percent increase in the freshman class over 2015. The new class numbers 3,542 students.
She said plans to retain those new students, to have a similarly-sized class next year and to close the final portions of the Harshman quadrangle have forced the university to look at other options for housing the bumper crop of young Falcons.
Waters said a request for proposals from the community was issued and Robert Maurer and his Greenbriar Realty company responded.
As a result, BGSU will lease four apartment buildings — at 506, 514 and 524 N. Enterprise St., and one at 422 E. Merry Ave. — gaining 190 bed spaces for next year to assist with the enrollment boom. These rooms will be considered on-campus housing for students. BGSU previously rented the North Enterprise buildings between 2007 and 2010.
“We’re very thankful to the Maurers and Greenbriar” for their proposal, Waters said. She said financial details for the plan have not yet been finalized.
Currently there are about 6,200 students living on campus at BGSU, and complicating the issue is the planned closure of the Harshman quadrangle residence hall, which is slated for the summer of 2017. About 500 students currently live there.
Harshman, built in 1964 and named for BGSU’s first president, Ralph G. Harshman, has four units: Anderson, Bromfield, Chapman and Dunbar. The Chapman and Dunbar wings were closed approximately four years ago for reasons of efficiency due to smaller class sizes at the time.
“We’ve been anticipating the closure of Harshman since around 2010,” Waters said, noting BGSU’s master plan from that year.
One of the major issues concerning Harshman is an electrical load center located in the building that needs to be updated – a major capital improvement, Waters said. The load center additionally services the ice arena and the Mileti Alumni Center across the road from the residence hall.
She said the board of trustees has approved the update to the load center for the summer of 2017.
She also said that, regarding other operations in Harshman, they were aware there was about a 10-year window to put major improvements in the aging facility.
“Before we could get to the very end of the life of all the systems in there, we would need to either invest (in the improvements) or close the building.”
She said that, strategically, they’ve decided to close Harshman. The plan is to demolish the site, likely in early 2018, though that hasn’t been formally scheduled.
“Once we get students out, of course we’ve got to get all of our assets out and move toward a demolition process.”
BGSU students are currently waiting to hear if their applications to live on campus will be approved. Waters said in light of the tight housing availability they are running a special application process for students in their upper class years who were expecting to live on campus. She said they are giving strong consideration to students who have scholarship money that is tied to living on-campus.
“We want those students to continue with us and to get all of their scholarships paid,” she said.
Waters said they are also looking at other universities that are experiencing similar circumstances. While no other major housing moves are in place yet, she said that they are working to convert spaces in residence halls that could conceivably serve as a bedroom, including some smaller lounge areas.