One of the most important aspects of choosing a new university, whether we think about it or not, is housing. What are the dorms like? How big are they? Will I have a roommate? Will my roommate be cool? What if they’re not?
All of these are questions that run through a soon-to-be college freshman’s head at some point. And with all the benefits that the University of Wyoming has for students, they’ve been lagging behind when it comes to housing benefits.
“You look at universities around our region, like Colorado State, the thing that people are looking for nowadays is more apartment-style or suite-style rooms,” says UW’s executive director of residence life and dining services Eric Webb.
Apartment- and suite-style rooms are a specific type of residence room with 2-4 people. Each of those people have their own room with a connected bathroom and sometimes a kitchen.
The University of Wyoming has two on-campus housing options: the Washakie halls and the UW apartments. And the Washakie halls could be getting an upgrade in the next few years.
“It’d be nice to have options.”
Let’s go back to our example of Colorado State. Strictly speaking about the residence halls, they have 12 options to offer to incoming students, with everything from your typical dorm room to a suite-style single with a private bathroom. Wyoming, by comparison, has just four.
“I think the big thing about the halls right now is that there aren’t very many options for incoming students,” said resident assistant Max Prevost. “You pretty much get a double or a single, with maybe a couple details that are different.”
That’s the big thing that the RLDS office is looking at. The world of university housing has been moving forward, and UW has been left behind.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything with the halls,” said Corey Peacock, Assistant Director of Residence Education. “The last remodeling we did was in White Hall back in 2001. It doesn’t sound too long ago, but that’s 17 years now.”
In an effort to keep up with the times, UW Residence Life submitted a ten-year proposal to the board of trustees to potentially build new halls on-campus.
“We’d like to be able to snap our fingers and have everything work, but we can’t.”
One of the big obstacles that Residence Life has to overcome is the budget crisis.
“We got lucky, really,” said Webb. “We got our proposal in and approved right before the budget crisis really started to take full effect.”
The first step of the proposal was to close Hill and Crane Halls. Crane had been home to the English department the year before while Hoyt Hall was being remodeled. That step has been completed, but not without a couple unforeseen complications.
“We had the biggest freshman class we’ve ever had at UW this year,” said Peacock. “Being able to have those extra rooms in Hill would’ve eased a lot of the pressure in the halls.”
The second step of the plan was to tear down Hill, Crane, and the conjoined dining center, but the budget crisis put a brief pause in the plan.
It’s not the end of the world for the plan, just a little bump in the road.
Why do better dorms even matter?
One question people around campus might find themselves asking, especially during this crisis, is “Why does this matter? Why are we spending money on this?”
Residence halls are a major, but hidden, factor when prospective students are picking out their new university. The halls are often one of the first things future students see and the thing that they remember most. It sounds cheesy, but the residence halls are almost like the gatekeepers of the university.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa, for example, has a very open floor plan in their halls. It allows for the residents to feel a little bit more like they’re in Hawaii. Those working at the University of Wyoming don’t want the first impression on students and parents to be cramped, unaccommodating rooms.
The bottom line is that the university wants to increase enrollment, along with making living in the halls easier for residents.
“That’s really what we’re in the business of,” said Peacock. “Making sure that as many people as possible have the most enjoyable experience they can while at UW.”