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Boise State looks to lease beds for freshmen, plans new dorm building

Boise State University is looking for more beds for students next school year.

Last month, the university requested proposals looking to lease roughly 70 beds with contiguous rooms near campus for the 2022/2023 school year. The hope is this will help alleviate some of the strain Boise State is under to house all of its incoming students as enrollment booms and the housing market tightens.

[Boise State closes down ‘unlivable’ apartments it just bought near campus]

New dorm coming, but not soon enough

Director for Housing and Residence Life Luke Jones said an analysis from a third-party consultant last fall showed the school was short nearly 750 beds for students at all levels, mainly for first-year students and at the graduate level. Currently, the university houses roughly 3,500 students.The last time it opened a new dorm was in the fall of 2017 with the 650 bed Sawtooth Hall and the Honors College.

To help with the program, Boise State just got the green light to build a new 450-bed dorm for freshmen, but it is not expected to be online for another three years. According to a State Board of Education agenda from last month, the new project will be located near the Albertsons Library and the Taylor/Keiser housing complex. Planning and design will cost up to $4.5 million.

[Boise State hired firm to study upgrades, expansion to core campus building]

“That is a pretty sizable gap, and even when we bring on a new building, I’m guessing that demand will only have increased over time,” Jones said. “We’re not fully meeting the need, but we’re trying to do something to bring a little relief to that pressure and see if we can at least move the needle a little bit for students.”

Proposed sites must be adjacent to campus, and the estimated cost of the least must be “at a competitive market rate,” the university’s request said. The initial lease will run from August 2022 through May 2023, but Jones said it could be extended until the new dorm is constructed if it works well. The RFP is due November 12.

Housing squeeze impacting students and neighbors

This crunch comes as housing affordability in the Treasure Valley and the rise in enrollment at Boise State collide.

Boise State climbed in popularity in recent years, with enrollment rising from 18,982 in 2017 to 20,145 in the fall of this year. The rise in student population has pushed more students into the neighborhoods surrounding the university, creating tension between full-time residents and the new, denser housing being built to accommodate students.

Student habits are driving some of the shortage. For years, Boise State was primarily a commuter campus, with most Treasure Valley students living at home while attending classes. This began shifting in 2009 when more students from around Idaho and out of state started flocking to the school. The majority of first-year students are from out-of-state for the first time this year in Boise State’s 89 year history, according to Idaho EdNews.

Contentious projects include smaller scale duplexes with multiple bathrooms and bedrooms per side, opponents dubbed “stealth dorms.” There’s also been opposition to larger, multi-story student housing projects like Identity and a contentious project set for Boise Avenue and Protest on the site of the former Ridenbaugh Apartments.

Jones said off-campus apartment-style projects would help staunch the demand from upper-level students, but underclassmen, particularly freshmen, often look to live on campus. He pointed to the more substantial outcomes from on-campus living that parents and prospective students look for. If Boise State can’t guarantee housing for its youngest students, Jones said they would look to similar schools in the region that can.

“There’s a certain factor to (living on campus), like student success, accessibility to support services, networking, social relationships and all the things that go into making a college experience really valuable,” Jones said. “That is what parents are looking for. They’re not necessarily looking to live in an apartment their first year, especially comparing other institutions.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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