Long-term plan to create 1,173 new beds
A committee of USC’s board of trustees gave approval to a $200 million long-term housing plan that would erect several new residence halls, demolish several others and increase on-campus beds by 1,173.
The presentation — delivered by consulting firm Brailsford and Dunlavey to USC’s board of trustees buildings and grounds committee Friday morning — would raze five dorms that have deteriorated over recent decades, according to USC officials. Those include Bates House, the two remaining sections of McBryde, the Roost, Carolina Gardens, and at the end of the plan, Cliff Apartments.
Bates House and McBryde would each be replaced with suite-style residence halls. Another public-private partnership in the Innovista could create 400 more beds. When the Cliff Apartments come down, they would be replaced as well.
USC will add an additional wing to its new Honors Residence Hall, and a renovation of Bates West will bring additional beds as well, according to the new plan.
The moves are all designed to stay in tune with USC's growing population and keep more upperclassmen on campus, according to USC officials. Freshmen must currently live on campus, but most students move off campus as they progress through college, national statistics show.
With the 1,173 additional beds, created through a series of renovations and new projects, the proposal could lift the number of students who live on campus to 40 percent. Currently, about 35 percent of students live on campus, according to USC Housing—a percentage in line with national averages for flagship universities but below several top-tier schools.
“That would bring USC up to the UVAs and Marylands of the world,” said Brad Noyes, vice president of the consulting firm.
USC Housing Director Kirsten Kennedy called Friday's meeting "a great day." The study cost USC $188,000, Kennedy said, but is "a very good deal" compared to some studies. Investing in master plan research is necessary before big decisions are made, Kennedy said, and studies at comparable institutions have cost more.
Completing the plan would take about 11 years and create about $145 million of additional debt for USC. The two-phase state approval process, which results in increased costs through inflation over time, could add millions in dollars of extra costs. USC’s Housing receives no state funding and no tuition dollars; the costs of the plan will be paid for only by the students who live in the facilities, Kennedy said.
But the project would eventually be profitable for the university, according to the consulting firm, which praised USC for its previous projects that included the Honors Residence Hall and the complete renovation of Patterson Hall. Kennedy said the university would hope to now revisit the plan approximately once every five years.
The plan will balance deferred maintenance costs and new construction. The demolished dorms cannot be renovated in a manner that would eventually make them profitable, Noyes said. Renovating would cost more than building new facilities, according to Noyes.
Others like the Women’s Quad, Bates West, Pinckney, Legare, Woodrow, Thornwell, Harper Elliott and DeSaussure will receive extensive renovations. Columbia Hall will receive a minor upgrade. Those renovations will bring facilities up to the level currently expected by incoming students, Kennedy said.
USC says the goal is to eventually make Blossom Street as a divider for upperclassmen residents and freshmen, with most upperclassmen living south of Blossom. Some will still live in the Honors Residence Hall and the Horseshoe apartments.
The plan conceded that USC would likely be unable to compete with off-campus housing complexes for many upperclassmen concerned about cost restraints.
Currently, the average cost to live on campus is about $500 a month. Off campus, students can find similar digs for $400 to $499 a month in a market that is “mature and competitive,” according to the plan.
Lowering prices would make on-campus housing not profitable for the university, according to the plan.