Construction progress continues on a beautiful new residence hall at Dakota State University, with the four-story, 122-bed facility to be ready for occupancy by fall 2021.
As enrollment grew in recent years, DSU has made substantial investments in student housing: renovation of the 1960s dormitories, leasing of apartment units north of N.E. 9th St., purchase and renovation of the former Madison Community Hospital to become The Courtyard residence hall, and purchase and renovation of the St. Thomas Convent to become Van Eps Place.
Even so, occupancy in fall 2019 was 100%. Clearly, it's been a lot of work to keep up with demand. Part of that work including planning for a brand new facility and the financing required to construct it.
Then COVID-19 came along. DSU switched from in-person classes to on-line instruction in March and ended up refunding half of the residence hall rent and meal service plans for the spring semester.
DSU and other state universities will hold in-person classes again this fall, but there is some uncertainty as to enrollment levels. We've heard of some students choosing to take a break from school for the fall semester.
Even so, DSU is looking long-term. Projections for the jobs for which students are being trained are increasing; some categories show job growth of more than 30% over the next 10 years, according to DSU President Jose-Marie Griffiths.
"All signs indicate enrollment growth at Dakota State will continue in coming years," she said.
Even if on-campus enrollment falls this year, DSU is well positioned. Plans are already in the works to create housing that could assist in isolation protocols if a student contracts COVID-19. If residence halls aren't filled to capacity, there could be opportunities to increase social distancing to prevent virus spread.
We're glad DSU administrators are working on residence hall plans for both the short term and long term. Both plans will help ensure long-term success.
-- Jon M. Hunter