Phase 1: Timeline
President Smith announces engagement of housing consultant and launch of master planning process at academic leaders (AP) meeting.
University Budget Council (9/17/18)
President Smith and Provost Longworth ask the University Budget Council (UBC) to study and determine the financial implications of housing for the University. Questions such as: What are the unmet needs? Do we need one new building? Two? What about the needs for those who accept the 4Ward scholarship, that entails living four years on campus? Get feedback and data, and offer the UBC’s take on what should come next. What is being done at Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Lake Superior State or Toledo, for instance? The key here is to start thinking about revenues and not just cutting costs, which can only go so far. President Smith asked UBC to "consider the financial implications of what should come next in terms of housing for the University."
Launched student survey (9/19-10/5/18)
Student focus groups 1 and 2 (9/17/18)
Consultant Rieth Jones Advisors (RJA) began review/analysis of housing market on/off campus.
Additional student focus group (10/15/18)
University Budget Council (10/15/18)
UBC is presented a report on housing occupancy and capital expenditures. Aspects of that report include that EMU’s level of housing occupancy for this year is 87.5 percent, which is slightly low relative to its regional peers. 95 percent would be a good target, it was said. The recent Wise Hall renovations, totaling $11.5 million over four years, are by far the largest residence hall expense over the last five years. Other expenses have included two years each of $150,000 enhancements to the First Year Center.
Student Government presentation (11/5/18)
University Budget Council (11/12/18)
UBC is presented with a PowerPoint analysis of Eastern’s housing stock from consultant Richard Reith, who noted his group had held focus groups and conducted a student survey, to which 2,100 students responded.
Among the key points:
- Safety and security is a central concern in terms of living off campus. 94 percent of students feel safe on the EMU campus, while 68 percent feel safe off campus. The latter percentage is poor relative to peers.
- Students prefer apartment-style living to the suite style employed by Eastern in many of its halls.
- Eastern’s percentage of students living on campus is below that of its peers.
- EMU has 85-percent occupancy of its halls; 95 percent is optimum occupancy.
- More apartment style units would help capture more upperclass students.
- Top-rated residence halls at Eastern include Wise Hall, which has undergone more than $11 million in recent renovations, along with the Village. Downing and Best halls also received praise, likely because they house Honors students. Quality and physical condition of other halls is an issue.
- Establishing learning communities such as Honors helps build interest in campus housing. Themed communities is an idea worth pursuing.
- The main reason students move off campus or live off campus is cost, thus to lure more students to live on campus, the University must create a perception of greater value.
- The capital investment necessary to turn housing into a positive recruiting asset is $255 million.
Nov. 19: The UBC engaged in further discussion regarding the EMU housing stock analysis presented at the last full meeting. Among the items noted from the report in the discussion:
- Students prefer apartments vs. the suite setup prevalent in EMU halls.
- The report offered a stark portrait of what needs to be done in order to make housing a factor in attracting students to Eastern.
- Possibilities outlined include borrowing $255 million in order to get the University’s housing stock up to that level, engaging with an outside partner, as EMU has done with parking, or maintaining the present practice of improving one residence hall at a time over a period of several years.
- Northern Michigan University and Wayne State have engaged housing partners.
- Housing revenue has been used to offset other aspects in the budget in recent years.
- The ultimate question: What is the best investment in terms of attracting more students?
Facilities finalized cost estimates for various components of housing upgrades.
Phase 2: Timeline
University Budget Council (12/17/18)
UBC engages in further discussion regarding housing, with additional context provided. Among the details:
- The University had 11 market sounding meetings.
- The RFQ (Request for Qualifications) will be released this week. A website will also be updated to track progress. Responses will be due by the third week of January.
- The goals of the RFQ are to get more informed in the marketplace and to help socialize the market with more details about Eastern.
- Explained in the RFQ are that this is a system-wide project, not a one-off effort, along with estimated cost and the desire for someone experienced in renovation, not just new construction.
- The project would be geared more toward the dining arrangement (on-going revenue source) than the parking agreement (up-front payment). The group should weigh in on both approaches.
- Ideas needed from a potential partner would include: to improve housing options so Eastern is competitive in the market place; to preserve operating revenue; to be a good partner that we can work with and to maintain a high level of affordability and quality for our students.
The UBC voted that the only option is engaging with a partner or making improvements ourselves. Doing nothing and borrowing for such a project were eliminated as options.
RFQ issued to assess potential interest in partnerships to improve housing. (12/21/18)
RFQ pre-submission meeting (1/10/19)
RFQ submission deadline (1/22/19)
Based on the RFQ responses, the RFQ review committee unanimously supported a recommendation that President Smith issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to four firms. (2/1/19)
President Smith received the RFQ review committee's recommendation. (2/14/19)
President Smith asked Rieth Jones Advisors, the consultants retained by the University to assist with this process, to draft an RFP for his review. (2/28/19)
No further decisions have been made and no further actions have been taken.