Dartmouth has decided not to build residence halls in College Park to accommodate 750 undergraduates, opting instead to explore options for a smaller project that could be built on one of a number of sites, President Phil Hanlon ’77 told the Faculty of Arts and Sciences today at their winter meeting.
“We have determined that the cost of building 750 beds is simply beyond our current financial capacity,” President Hanlon said. “We can’t do this as we keep the focus of our investments on maintaining and enhancing academic quality.”
“We will explore multiple options for a smaller project, and for that, multiple sites are possible,” he said.
Hanlon said College trustees last month asked the administration to investigate undertaking a smaller residence hall building project. At today’s meeting, the president did not say how many beds the College would explore building, nor where building could take place.
Dartmouth is at capacity in its residence halls and for several years hasn’t had enough beds to meet demand at the beginning of the school year, Executive Vice President Rick Mills said this fall, when a feasibility site analysis of College Park began.
The housing shortage has not permitted the College to address deferred maintenance of existing residence halls, as such work requires closing a building for at least a year and there is no “swing space” in which to house students during the renovation work.
Hanlon told the faculty that construction of 750 beds would have provided swing space to begin a decades-long renovation project to move students into new housing and renovate older stock, including the Choates and the River Cluster residence halls.
Any new construction will need to be funded through philanthropy or reallocation within the operating budget, Hanlon said. In addition, he said the College is making progress in budgeting for depreciation of existing residence halls by building it into the operating budget each year.
“But this is going to take time. Our underfunding of depreciation is a problem that has been decades in the making and won’t be solved within a couple of years,” the president said.
Susan Boutwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.