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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Facilities consumed by enrollment

UA facilities are nearing their occupancy limits as more and more students need to use them each year.

Enrollment at the UA has increased about 6 percent since fall 2006, peaking at 39,086 in fall 2010, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support. The current infrastructure on the main campus can support about 40,000 students, said UA President Robert Shelton during his State of the University Address in December 2010.

The increase in enrollment has led the UA to reconfigure its buildings for multiple uses and consider options for expansion. The campus has a shortage of lab space, office space and some types of classrooms, according to Peter Dourlein, director of UA Planning, Design and Construction.

“”We’re using virtually every building we have,”” he said.

The UA campus is “”land locked,”” according to Dourlein, but does have space to expand. Planning, Design and Construction works within a boundary around the campus when planning new construction, which includes private property not currently owned by the university.

The UA campus size can grow by one-third within this boundary, according to Dourlein.

“”Then we’re going to be tapped out for a while,”” he said.

Building taller buildings, replacing parking lots with new construction projects and removing older buildings are all strategies the organization is deploying to utilize the UA’s space on campus. Downtown can also provide space for the university to expand with student housing in the area already in progress.

“”That’s like a big relief valve for the university,”” Dourlein said.

An increase in enrollment comes at the same time as cuts in state funding, which can challenge the university’s ability to fund new projects. The university approached the state Legislature for construction funding in the past, Dourlein said.

“”Now, no projects are funded like that,”” he said. “”That’s not even an option anymore.””

Another result of funding cuts is the need for large classes, which allow the university to serve more students with fewer faculty members, Dourlein said. The demand for larger classrooms has led to the repurposing of some campus buildings.

Both Centennial Hall and Gallagher Theater have been used for large classes during the past few years. However, most buildings are too costly to convert into large classrooms because they are not equipped with the correct technology or seating, Dourlein said.

The extra use of these buildings also affects their maintenance, according to Chris Kopach, director of Facilities Management. He said seats in Centennial Hall have been torn from the extra use.

“”Naturally, it’s not the same amount of volume,”” Kopach said.

The addition of large classrooms is going to be increasingly important in the coming five years, according to the business plan Shelton presented to the Arizona Board of Regents in April. The plan stated the UA’s goal of increasing the number of 100- to 300-seat classrooms by 2016 to improve graduation rates and accommodate continued enrollment growth.

Planning, Design and Construction is looking for ways to add large classroom space to new developments, according to Dourlein. The new tree ring lab was designed with a large meeting and classroom space.

“”We’re looking to amp that up,”” he said.

In addition to large classrooms, some UA colleges are looking for additional lab and work space. The lack of state funding requires the use of partnerships or gift funding to add the facilities in some cases.

The College of Engineering is in the process of designing a 7,000 to 10,000-square foot student clubhouse near the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building on Speedway Boulevard, according to Jeffrey Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering. The building will house student club projects.

“”The space for those kinds of things is tough to come by,”” Goldberg said.

The building is estimated to cost between $5 million and $6 million, which is being raised through industry and private support. Alumni who remember their experiences building projects are often willing to donate, Goldberg said.

“”A lot of hands-on experiences are done through clubs,”” he said. “”People like to come and see our toys.””

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