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University board approves Banfield project at UAS

Posted: June 4, 2011 - 9:04pm

The University of Alaska Board of Regents last week gave formal approval for a nearly $9 million construction project which would add more student housing at University of Alaska Southeast’s campus.

The Juneau campus has been growing rapidly in recent years, and has reached capacity for housing students at Banfield Hall, constructed in 1996.

School officials told regents, meeting in Fairbanks, that adequate student housing is an important part of their educational success.

UAS considers student housing such as Banfield to be part of a “living and learning” environment that helps its students succeed.

“Freshmen students in particular, as they make the transition from living at home to being in college are more likely to experience difficulties,” the regents were told.

UAS has been enrolling new freshmen at a rapid rate, growing about 50 percent over the last four years, they said.

“UAS can only continue this growth if it can continue to guarantee on-campus freshmen housing for its freshman class,” the school said.

Banfield has already reached maximum capacity, and in the last year freshmen were housed in the apartment-style units that has previously been reserved for returning upperclassmen.

At the same time, Juneau’s high rental rates are also making it difficult for students living off-campus to remain in school.

“There’s no doubt that the Banfield addition is necessary, especially giving the tight Juneau housing market,” said Kate Ripley, spokesperson for the UA system and a Juneau native.

UAS’ flagship Juneau campus had 228 entering freshmen last year, up 10 percent over the previous year and 50 percent over 2006. By contrast, University of Alaska Fairbanks had 612 incoming freshmen last year, down slightly from the previous year and up only about 4 percent from 2006

The approved project will more than double the size of Banfield Hall, currently 17,748 square feet, by adding another 18,985 square feet. The project will add 60 beds to the current 84 beds, along with new laundry, office study and storage rooms.

A second phase will bring food service to the nearby existing housing lodge. Food service is now three-quarters of a mile away at the Mourant Building.

That change will help provide a supportive atmosphere and improve the social aspects of students dining together, the school said.

“Bringing food service closer to where students live will facilitate the growth of the learning community and improve student quality of live,” according to the UAS development plan approved by the regents.

Less than half the cost of the expansion will be funded by the Alaska Legislature, which included $4 million in the capital budget for the project this year. Another $4 million will be financed, with the remaining $800,000 of the $8.8 million project coming from the school’s share of deferred maintenance funds.

Ripley said that while the governor has yet to sign the capital budget appropriation bill passed by the Legislature, the regents don’t meet again until September. University administrators can suspend work due to lack of funds, but thought it was appropriate to approve the project now, she said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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