High enrollment increases housing on campus
Once known as an almost exclusively commuter school, UH has rapidly added new housing accommodations for students over the past four years.
UH now holds 8,008 beds on its grounds, and the overall capacity for dorms on campus is at 97 percent, according to UH Housing.
Don Yackley, president of Student Housing and Residential Life, said UH began reforming the housing department by carrying out the purchase of Bayou Oaks from a university housing partner and giving it a $500,000 renovation.
The biggest demand for housing in the past few years is at the Cougar Place and Calhoun Lofts residence halls, which both were challenges, according to Yackley.
“The Lofts were initially designed as sort of a higher-end graduate and professional school,” Yackley said. “We have expanded that to include juniors and seniors. Any time you build apartments, they are a little bit more expensive to construct than residence halls because of all the plumbing for kitchens and bathrooms. They also had to demolish the old Cougar Place to build the new one.”
The only residence hall that received a declining number of applicants was Cambridge Oaks, which may be due to the possibility of students buying up an entire room just for themselves.
“Cambridge Oaks doesn’t have a lot of residents, so the decrease isn’t a big deal,” Yackley said. “They have about 600 bed spaces, and a lot of those are students paying two spaces for one.”
Increases in housing occurred in Moody Towers and the Quadrangle, two older style dormitories. Yackley believes this increase is because of lowered prices.
“I think that it’s the best value in the system,” Yackley said. “Those two residences are the least expensive and are in close proximity to all the other recourses. When we opened Cougar Village… students had a good experience, and they wanted to stay on campus. Since we keep the Villages to mostly first year students, their next option is the Quads or Moody. While they are older facilities, they have some nice things to offer.”
Liberal arts freshmen Saesaem Kim lives in Moody Towers and chose to live there for the unique opportunity to meet a diverse number of students.
“The Cougar Villages are mostly for freshman, and Cougar Place is only for upperclassman,” Kim said. “But Moody is for everyone. I met a wide variety of graduate and international students just on my floor alone. There is a lot of interesting diversity, just like on the campus as a whole.”
In the future, the University will begin to examine the Quadrangle, the university’s oldest dormitories. Yackley believes that while the Quads have some intriguing pros, several of the cons can be eliminated.
“While (the Quads) has some amazing characteristics, the systems in it are very old,” Yackley said. “My hope is that in the next three years we will have started construction on a new Quadrangle. Adding some space, I hope, for sophomores, juniors and seniors, which seems to be the biggest demand.”
According to Yackley, a big change in his four years on the job is the vibrant culture of the campus continuing even after normal business hours.
“When I first got here at the end of the workday, I wouldn’t see anyone interacting,” Yackley said. “Now when I leave, there are events, activities and people throwing Frisbees and footballs. It feels like there is more connection to our athletics.”
Quadrangle resident and HR management senior Juan Salinas has seen the University grow from the opening of Cougar Village to the diverse facilities it has today. Salinas agrees with Yackley that the student housing increase is because of the increase in programs for students on campus.
“I got here when the University was first building Tier One housing,” Salinas said. “However, it was not until the new football stadium was built when I noticed there was a big change. There is a lot more care and programming for students. There is more attention given toward having students feel at home here on campus and more emphasis for events and parties on campus.”