Two new dorms for UCCS OK'd as enrollment jumps

September 13, 2011

Plans for a $16 million project to build two new dorms at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs were approved Tuesday by the CU Board of Regents — and none too soon.

The vote came on the heels of news that UCCS enrollment this fall is the highest in the university’s history, with more than 9,300 students enrolled. And there’s a waiting list for dorm space.

Most of the jump was among first-time freshman, an increase of 196 students or 17 percent from last year.

“We exceeded our own expectations this year,” said UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, crediting a combination of aggressive recruiting and the cost of a UCCS education.

“We have kept UCCS as affordable as we can,” she said, adding that UCCS tuition is less than that of many if not all of its competitors.

Academically, the university can accommodate the jump in students, she said, and a larger student body allows UCCS to continue to hire more faculty and staff.

Shockley-Zalabak said the quality of incoming freshmen is notable.

“It’s the kind of growth we want,” she said.

About 80 percent of the incoming students could have attended any school in the state with selective admissions criteria, she said. Although data is still being crunched, UCCS officials believe the freshman class is among the strongest in UCCS history based on high school grades and entrance exam scores.

Diversity is another highlight of the UCCS census, with an 11.5 percent increase from fall 2010 in the number of students identifying themselves as members of an ethnic minority group. For fall 2011, 2,077 students or 22.3 percent of students considered themselves part of a minority group.

The number of transfer students is up 4.9 percent over the previous year, with many coming from the state’s community colleges.

Students also are taking on bigger course loads. Student credit hours, a measure of the number of students and the number of courses in which they are enrolled, increased from 102,070 last fall to 107,583 this year, a 5.4 percent jump. UCCS continues to have a mix of full- and part-time students.

Final numbers from the Sept. 9 official count puts enrollment at 9,321, an increase of 429 students or nearly 5 percent.

The regents’ Tuesday vote won’t alleviate UCCS housing needs for awhile.The residential towers with space for another 200 students will take about 15 months to build, with expected completion in fall 2013, Shockley-Zalabak said.

“That will take us through the next wave of growth,” she said.

The $16 million cost will be covered with a construction bond and rent when students move in, she said. The project brings about 150 jobs to the community.

Contact the writer at 636-0162.

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