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Business Officer Magazine
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Vantage Point

Spotlight on an institution in one of the constituent groups: small institutions, community colleges, comprehensive/doctoral institutions, or research universities

By Dawn Rhodes

RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES
Student-Focused Facilities Transformation

A yearlong study in 2011 of the University Place Conference Center and Hotel prompted leaders at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to consider a dramatic conversion of the financially troubled complex. Owned by the campus and managed by a third party, the hotel and conference center had been operating at a loss for several years, in large part because of the economy and increased competition in the area.

Innovation in Action

See for yourself IUPUI's creative transformation of campus space during special site visits scheduled for the NACUBO 2013 Annual Meeting, July 13–16, in Indianapolis.

At the same time, with a classroom shortage, at-capacity campus housing, 261students housed near campus via an arrangement with a hotel complex, a waitlist of more than 200 students, and no dining facility on campus, facilities repurposing represented a low-cost opportunity to address these priority concerns. Also, "It fits concisely within the campus master plan to maintain high-quality housing, research, and teaching spaces," notes IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz.

Cost Considerations

The financial plan includes three major components:

  • Expenses (approximately $2.2 million) required to end our legal arrangement with the third-party operator, including the elimination of the accumulated negative fund balance.
  • Cost related to converting the physical space from a hotel and conference center to a multipurpose facility that houses 15 new classrooms; student support services; a 560-bed residence hall; a 470-seat-and first-ever-dining facility; a 90-seat restaurant; special events facilities; and an underground parking garage. The projected funding that the campus must provide is another $2.2 million dollars. (The campus is not providing the funding for the dining facility or restaurant.)
  • Ongoing operating revenue and expenses for each of these components. The debt service remaining on the hotel is prorated across the units occupying the portion of the building and will be fully covered.

After consideration of the alternatives, the facilities conversion was approved by campus and university administration, and implementation began immediately. The project began last December, with 19,000 square feet of classroom space completed in time for the January 2013 semester. Housing and the dining hall will be available this fall.

Residents at the Ready

University Tower will open in August 2013. Photo credit: UI Communications.
University Tower will open in August 2013.

Demand for student housing has far exceeded the university's modest capacity of 1,137 beds on campus. Along with the students in overflow housing, we estimate that more than 1,000 first-time, full-time students coming to IUPUI from outside central Indiana are good candidates for the 560 beds in the new complex.

In addition, one of the larger contributors to the housing shortage is the fact that the mix of students has changed—and more traditional-age students want to come to IUPUI and enjoy a typical campus experience. Also, we have fewer part-time students. In fall 2012, approximately 75 percent of our undergraduates were full-time students; in fall 2002, only about 62 percent were full time.

The new residence hall will provide the following benefits:

  • Improved retention, higher grades. IUPUI conducted a six-year longitudinal study that revealed the fact that students who live in campus residence halls during their first year have significantly higher grade-point averages and retention rates compared to their peers who live off campus or commute.
  • More engagement in university life. The National Survey of Student Engagement and other studies point out that students living on campus experience activities that are indicators of academic success, including more contact with faculty, networking with peers, and involvement in student organizations.

Countering Concerns

It's true that some university stakeholders have raised issues such as the loss of a conference venue and the opportunities such space afforded for the community, as well as national and international visitors. While the finances don't support maintaining this venue, the intention of campus leaders is to continue to find ways to keep IUPUI's downtown campus a center for the kind of intellectual and cultural life that attracts visitors to the campus.

"We've been proud of the role our campus has played in fostering a thriving convention and tourism business in central Indiana," says Bantz. "But new uses of the facility have been identified that will better support critical campus needs and our goals of quality learning environments, student retention, and graduation."

SUBMITTED BY Dawn Rhodes, vice chancellor, finance and administration, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis