Dorm occupancy in decline
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UNLV residence halls have seen a steady drop-off of tenants
Student housing demands are down at UNLV, resulting in several residence halls sitting empty this fall.
The entire South Complex along with Faiman Hall of the Upper Class Complex are vacant. Dormitories, which have a capacity of 1,810 students are currently being occupied by 956 students, 450 of which are in-state.
Occupancy rates have decreased over a three-year span, according to campus housing officials, mostly due to the economy, a lack of financial aid and families considering costs.
The decrease has been consistent since 2008 when approximately 1,250 students resided in dorms. There has been a decline of approximately 100 students over the past year.
“There is a lot of competition from the local market right now in Las Vegas,” said Executive Director for Housing and Residential Life Richard Clark. “If you look at the room rates in 2008 compared to now, a student may have paid $700 to $800 for an apartment. Now they are paying $390 to $450, in that ballpark, so it’s gotten very competitive in the local market.”
One of the top competitors in student housing is the privately operated Rebel Place, located on Swenson Street, which offers shuttle service to campus and short term leases.
The current cost to stay in a dorm room on campus ranges from $3,273 for dual occupancy per semester to approximately $4,000 for a single occupant. These prices have not increased in four years, Clark said.
Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Chancellor Dan Klaich said the occupancy rates are down at UNLV because the university is not offering something people want.
He said the days of having the type of box-like dorm room he once stayed in as a student are gone and that UNLV should tear the dorms down and start over to attract students if necessary.
Klaich said that at the University of Nevada, Reno, the dorms are full and generate a profit for the university. UNR is in the process of constructing a new dormitory, a 320-bed “Living, Learning Community” residence hall, opening in Fall of 2012.
Klaich is a proponent of including housing in the proposed UNLV Now project that would bring a large stadium to campus. Proposals for the development adjacent to the Thomas & Mack call for up to 3,000 housing units that would be apartments instead of traditional dorms, according to UNLVnow.com.
Some proposals aim to attract students into living in the existing dorms, including adding kitchens. The Upper Class Complex could be transformed into studio units called super-singles.
These dorms would provide private units in a large room divided into a living area and a bedroom, Clark said. Repainting the facilities and adding entryways are also under consideration.
Lowering the cost to stay in a dorm is also being considered to interest more students.
Officials are analyzing numbers to get an idea of how much to lower costs.
Clark said that he has lowered the costs to $700 for a single and $550 for a double, just enough to pay the bills but make it more affordable for students.
All proposals will be presented to the NSHE Board of Regents Meeting in December.
Part of the unoccupied dorm space is being used as conference housing to generate revenue.
“There are a lot of conference groups that come to Las Vegas that are either young adults or they are affiliated with an organization where they can’t be in a casino and so they’ve actually been coming to campus,” Clark said.
The South Complex is scheduled to be closed at least for another year while Faiman Hall is scheduled to be reopened in the near future.
“What I tell parents and what I tell students that are coming here for the first time is there are three things that we do better than anybody else: safety, convenience and connectedness,” said Clark.
Some students, however, don’t feel it’s necessary for in-state students to reside in a dorm during their tenure at a university.
“I’m an in-state student and I don’t have the need to live in the dorms,” said UNLV student Jahaziel Martinez. “They’re kind of expensive. A better choice is a place near UNLV because it’s cheaper.”