Ever since the Great Recession tightened state budgets nationwide, public universities have buffered the steady decline of tax-payer support by increasing student enrollment. InsideNAU reported Arizona’s most recent reduction of $30 million from NAU’s budget leaves state support at less than 25 percent of the university’s revenue, compared to 41 percent a decade ago. While state support for NAU dwindles, enrollment numbers continue to grow with the 2010 NAU Campus Master Plan projecting 25,000 students on the Flagstaff campus by 2020 or soon after.
To accommodate increasing enrollment and student’s desires for on-campus housing, NAU requested proposals back in 2008 from private real estate investment trusts (REITs) which manage all aspects of design, finance, construction and operational management of student housing properties.
American Campus Communities (ACC), the largest private owner and manager of student housing communities in the U.S., was selected in NAU’s competitive bidding process. According to an April 2011 ABOR meeting document, NAU will lease campus property to ACC for a period of 40 years with four 10-year options to renew. In return ACC funds, builds and operates the estimated $68 million Hilltop Townhomes and Suites residences which can accommodate up to 1,100 students.
Alicia Voytek, NAU Residence Life’s Associate Director of Operations, explained how the partnership between NAU and ACC came about.
“Basically, NAU was starting to seek a private partner to develop additional housing in support of enrollment growth,” Voytek said. “As enrollment was growing, we were trying to meet the demand of students that wanted to come back to campus. NAU chose ACC because of their reputation and to preserve our own capital for future academic projects.”
According to a Business Wire press release, ACC owns 119 student housing properties nationwide containing approximately 74,100 beds. Its clients include Portland State University, Princeton University and the University of New Mexico among others.
Brochures tout NAU’s Hilltop Townhomes as offering students luxurious amenities including Xbox 360 and PS3 game rooms, tanning beds, iPad bars and private bedrooms and bathrooms for a price nearing $600 per month. Students at the Townhomes pay for their electricity usage in addition to monthly dues whereas students at the Suites see all utilities (cable TV, internet, trash, sewer, water and gas) included in their monthly rates. No pets are allowed at the new residences and rooms come fully furnished.
While both McKay Village and Pine Ridge Village, the university’s current apartment style suites, only accept students with 60 credits, the Suites and Hilltop Townhomes are allowing all classes — including incoming freshmen — to apply for housing.
In addition, The Suites are advertising a deal on their website that will give Suites residents of fall 2012 priority to rooms at Hilltop Townhomes in fall of the following year.
According to Charysse Bartels, a sophomore exercise science major, the Hilltop Townhomes’ location and privacy were what convinced her to sign her lease. “We live in an apartment off-campus now because I didn’t like living in the dorms, but with awkward breaks between classes I don’t have enough time to get on the bus and go home,” Bartels said. “And there are washers and dryers in every unit — whereas the place we live now you have to pay $1.25 to wash and $1.25 to dry, so that alone saves $10 a week.”
Other NAU students expressed desire for the prime location, newness and privacy offered by The Suites. Nicole Malkou, a freshman finance major, is moving into The Suites in fall 2012. “I thought it would be cool to live in a brand new place next year,” Malkou said. “I really like being on campus, [and] the only thing I didn’t like is not having my own bathroom and I wasn’t into having the whole RA thing. I also liked how the suites were separate from the dorms and NAU. It might be a little bit more expensive, but I think it’s better.”
Instead of traditional RAs, The Hilltop Townhomes and Suites will offer their own Community Assistants who will work the front desks, manage disputes among residents and organize activities, according to an on-campus leasing representative. The private residences will also manage their own on-site maintenance staffs, separate from NAU.
However, NAUPD Community Relations Officer Joe Tritschler stated that for campus police the new properties will be business-as-usual.
“The new residences are within the jurisdiction of NAUPD, so criminal cases will be handled just as they would on any other facility or location on campus.” The only difference Tritschler noted was that NAUPD might not have access to the new residences’ room keys. “We have keys to dorm rooms on campus in the event of an emergency — if it’s a life and death situation we can get in without breaking the door down. I don’t know if we’ll have keys to the new facility.”
Chris Michels, NAU’s Director of Information Technology Services, also said students in the new residence halls will have access to the same level of support from the Student Technology Center and will connect to the NAU network just like any other residence hall.
“The goal is to make it the same. The only difference is going to be that telephone service is not provided by default in these residence halls,” Michels said.“The biggest advantage of a landline is if you wanted 911 to go directly to NAUPD. If you call from your cell phone it will go to the Coconino County dispatcher.”
Responding to the lack of landline phone services in the new residences, Tritschler stated, “The issue was brought up before . . . we will definitely do an educational campaign to get our number out there. But the reality is if someone does call 911, all they need to say is ‘I’m on campus.’”
Once the dispatcher is notified of the location, the call will be transferred along with all transcribed information from the prior dispatcher. “The system is in place to handle these situations in an expeditious manner.”
Source: Northern Arizona News