Columbia College can stop converting lounges into dorm rooms and renting off-campus apartments to house its students. On Wednesday, the college opened its first new residence hall in more than 50 years.
New Hall, which administrators expect to be at capacity with 150 students this fall, welcomed its first group of students for move-in Wednesday. The building is also the new home of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business and includes classroom and event space.
Faculty offices for the business school also moved from Williams Hall, the oldest building on campus, to the bottom floor of New Hall. An event space with a capacity of more than 120 people is also available on the ground floor. Students are housed in the upper three floors.
Construction of the 60,000 square foot building started April 2018 and New Hall was completed on schedule, although workers were still adding a few finishing touches Wednesday.
Building costs stayed under budget at about $20 million. Of that sum, $5 million was collected through fundraising and the rest came from other institutional funds.
Residents and administrators are not only enthusiastic about the extra room, but also emphasized that it is easier for students to build a community and succeed academically when they live on campus.
Living on campus has been Yulia Bychkovska’s favorite part of her college experience.
“All of my friends I met because of living on campus,” said Bychkovska, a junior from Ukraine studying international business. She’ll serve as a resident assistant in New Hall this year.
She’s looking forward to attending her 8 a.m. class without having to leave the building. New Hall features six classrooms, some of which double as a tornado shelter.
As an international student, Bychkovska said that living on campus helped immerse her in the college culture.
Even for domestic students, campus living can promote success, said Kevin Fletcher, who works in the college’s public relations department.
“Data shows the more connected you are with your academic environment the more successful you are academically,” Fletcher said. “That’s the main thrust with having our students on campus.”
Students with fewer than 75 credit hours who come from more than 25 miles away or have 75% or more of their tuition covered by scholarships are required to live on campus, said Dave Roberts, dean of student affairs.
Some local students also choose to live on campus.
Kaita Meyer, a sophomore studying elementary education and psychology, is from Columbia. She said she likes living in the dorm because it’s close to her classes and to downtown.
With the addition of New Hall, the more than 500 students who live on campus fill around 85% of total dorm capacity, administrators said, though final counts aren’t in yet.
But every space in New Hall is full.
Sami Degenhardt, a sophomore transfer student studying criminal justice, said she got one of the last available rooms.
Degenhardt, who is from Imperial, doesn’t have much to compare New Hall to but said she was excited.
“I’ve never lived on campus before, and it’s nice to live in a brand new dorm,” she said.