Changes Enforced, Discussed

COLIN LIKAS & SARAH STOESZ | Editor-In-Chief, Staff Reporter

Butler University is raising its tuition for the 2014-2015 school year and moving forward to increase the amount of on-campus housing by fall 2016.

President James Danko emailed the Butler community last Wednesday with an announcement about the March Board of Trustees meeting. The first topic the email addressed was the rising tuition.

Tuition will be raised 3.75 percent for next school year. Tuition for this school year for full-time students is $16,745 per semester.  For the 2014-2015 school year, it will be $17,375 per semester.

“We wish to God we could say, ‘We’re not going to increase tuition,’” Danko said in a town hall event last Thursday. “We’ve moved away from the four-and-a-half percent and 5 percent increases that we’ve seen (previously) and kept it to what we think is reasonable.”

Tuition has increased every year of Danko’s presidency. It has increased less than 4 percent each of the last three school years, according to the email.

“I think that Butler tries to pride itself in being a diverse school and putting forth effort to be diverse,” junior Christine Panah said. “Raising the tuition of an already expensive school to being more expensive, they are really limiting the type of people that will go here.

“You can only increase it so much, and people can only pay so much before they are going to start losing people, and they are not going to be getting the type of people that this community of care wants.”

Room and board fees each increased 3.4 percent for the 2014-2015 school year as a result of the tuition jump.

Butler strives to maintain affordability, but has to raise tuition to maintain and improve the university, Danko’s email stated.

“We are an institution that depends largely on tuition revenues and, at the same time, focuses on delivering a high-quality educational experience to our students,” he said in the email. “These modest increases help us maintain the financial flexibility to make important investments in our students, faculty and staff, programs and facilities—(which are) all key drivers of our long-term success.”

Danko’s email also addressed discussions about advancing student housing on campus, as well as a new partnership to create improved future housing options.

“(The Board of Trustees and campus administration) agreed that we need to move expediently on this campus master plan, that we’ve been talking about this for too long,” Danko said at the Town Hall event. “We’re at a strong competitive disadvantage when students look at our housing in terms of the way that it has deteriorated over time.”

Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs, said Butler is aiming to have at least one new housing complex built on campus prior to fall 2016. Such a building would contain between 500 and 600 beds.

Additionally, Ross Hall and Schwitzer Hall could face either extensive rehabilitation or razing and replacement with similar new housing areas.

“Right now, we’re finally getting to this point where we’ve addressed a number of other campus needs, and now residential environment is our priority,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re moving really quickly to address this.”Danko said, when such decisions are made, the university could gain anywhere from 500 to 1,500 beds.

There is no specific time currently set for any of these actions to take place. Also, it is unknown how much such processes would cost the university.

It is not immediately clear where a new housing complex would be built with Ross and Schwitzer still standing. Danko said the area behind Schwitzer—which is currently occupied by an electrical generator and some parking—and the parking area behind Clowes Memorial Hall would be options.

Johnson said university representatives will spend the next few months creating a business plan that would contain cost estimates. Student capacity needs, on-campus soft space and dining, and Greek housing will be taken into consideration when forming this plan.

The company that will work alongside Butler in an attempt to help the institution achieve its housing goals is American Campus Communities.

American Campus Communities is “the nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing communities,” according to the organization’s website. The organization has worked on housing in 33 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, in addition to claiming development of more than $4.2 billion in properties since 1996.

American Campus Communities did not respond to a request for comment.

“As we visited Campus Communities and their properties, (we realized) they don’t just build the typical residence halls—they go a step beyond,” Johnson said. “Many of them feel not just like residence halls, but more like communities.”

While making sure Butler students have enough beds is the main goal for the university’s housing efforts, Johnson said giving students and parents what they most want in housing is just as important.

Two commonly discussed desires, he said, are more privacy and more social gathering spaces within a residential area.

This could lead to students living in the style of room commonly seen in Residential College—what Johnson referred to as “a suite or pod style”—in their first year.

Danko said during the town hall event that what Butler students currently get out of campus housing versus the amount are costs to attend the university is “wrong.”

“We’ve been making revenue off student housing for quite some time. But the problem is, it’s a little bit like we’re turning more and more like a slum land,” he said. “I really have some issues with that. It really is an embarrassment for Butler, when we talk to perspective students.”

Regardless of how or when housing changes will occur, Johnson said they will happen.

“I think this is the next major construction initiative that’s going to elevate Butler’s reputation as it relates to the out-of-class experience,” he said. “We want to go beyond and be around the curve that other institutions of higher education look into developing (in housing).”

Danko was not available for an interview for this story at press time. Chief of staff Ben Hunter, vice president for finance Bruce Arick, and director of public relations Courtney Tuell deferred interviews for this story to other university staff members.

Board of Trustees member Howard Schrott declined to comment for this story. Board of Trustees members Keith Burks and Jamie Phillippe were unable to respond for interviews. Board of Trustees president Craig Fenneman and Board of Trustees member Bryan Mills could not be reached for comment.