To meet its student-housing needs and transition away from the Hill residence halls, Auburn University is exploring the option of leasing beds at private dormitories in the city while building more on-campus student housing near the Haley Concourse.
Bobby Woodard, senior vice president for student affairs, described the multi-pronged approach to the Auburn University Board of Trustees at its workshop last week, emphasizing that the goals for student housing have not changed — the university still wants to provide housing for all incoming freshman who wish to live on campus while also transitioning out of the Hill over the next five to seven years.
"We want to keep our current net inventory of beds that we have," he said.
The university is already pursuing a master lease with a private student-housing complex in Auburn for 300 to 400 beds after issuing a request for information three weeks ago.
"We had a lot of interest from local apartment complexes … in the city, more than we thought we would have," said Woodard, who added that the university met with one complex owner last Thursday to discuss a potential master lease. The university would like to have a master lease in place by the end of December or early January.
"The idea that the city could possibly be overbuilt in student … housing has really set us up for the best situation to benefit our students here on campus, so I can house all the students," Woodard said. "We have a lot of interest in the local market.
"It’s going to be in the best interest of the students, which then, in turn, will be in the best interest of Auburn University. We will not do a master lease if it’s not in the best interest of our students or the university. We would just reduce our inventory."
The university could also entertain purchasing a private dormitory complex in the future, according to the presentation.
Phase one of the time line would be to lease beds by next fall to get out of three or four buildings at The Hill before looking to lease even more beds for the fall of 2021.
The university is also exploring building a new residence hall near the Haley Concourse that would incorporate another 300 to 400 beds.
"We’ve talked to the students, and there’s no better location to be closer to the center of campus," said Woodard.
The university's move toward securing off-campus student housing comes as the city grapples with what approach it will take with student housing.
A recently completed comprehensive inventory of student housing in the city indicated that the city might be overbuilt; the inventory showed that the city will have 34,678 bedrooms that fall under student multi-family developments, Auburn University housing or academic detached dwelling units.
The board of trustees approved amendments to its enrollment policy last week that set a target of 25,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students over the next five years. Current undergraduate enrollment is close to 25,000, while graduate enrollment is 5,812. The projections show a total enrollment of 32,000 students by the 2022-23 academic year.
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders has expressed concern about student housing in the city over the past several months as plans for more private dormitories have been revealed.
The Auburn Student Housing Task Force recently held its last meeting. The Auburn City Council plans to discuss student housing during its Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 3.