Sam Houston State University is feeling the impact of the new Piney Woods Hall this semester as the student overflow concern in on-campus housing is all but history.
For the last two years, SHSU has had its hands full with the number of students wanting to live on-campus compared to the amount of living spaces available. In the Fall of 2015, the University rented out a hotel and placed over 80 freshmen there for the fall semester. In addition, SHSU had to triple up spaces in rooms of White Hall, Estill and Belvin-Buchanan.
“We never want to experience that again,” Executive Director of Resident Life Joellen Tipton said. “We are in a good place at the moment, having just opened our new Piney Woods Hall, although we did still have to triple up our White Hall rooms.”
The $60 million-dollar facility is housing 684 Bearkats and is providing the space needed to aid the University’s rapid growth. Since SHSU requires all freshmen to live in on-campus housing, save for a handful of exceptions, the University recently had to put a cap on the amount of upperclassmen housing applications.
Now, with the addition of Piney Woods, on-campus housing is 97-percent full with a substantial balance in freshmen and upperclassmen.
“The new hall has had a tremendous affect, adding 684 more spaces for students to live on campus,” Tipton said. “It is certainly more convenient, and also more cost effective than living off campus. We were able to allow all of our upperclassmen who wanted to renew their contracts to do so this year, as well as accommodate all of our freshmen.”
Some Bearkats who live off-campus and commute have a problem with the University making space for new buildings such as the Piney Woods hall, the Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center and the Lowman Student Center expansion.
Gonzalez Santiago, a Homeland Security graduate student, uses the paid parking spaces every day, but credited the lack of spaces to the new buildings.
“The parking situation has always been horrible and doesn’t seem to be getting better,” Santiago said. “All those buildings they’re building could be used for parking. There used to be parking where the new dorm is and they seem to keep taking parking away and not putting any new ones in.”
Much like politics, no matter what the University does the parking concern will always be brought to the table. Parking spaces could have been added in the lot where the Piney Woods hall sits, but with SHSU’s freshmen class growing every semester, the addition of a new residence hall was vital to accommodate the school’s growth.
“Obviously I believe that student housing is important and a critical part of the mission of the University,” Tipton said. “We actually have quite a bit of parking right now on the north side of campus that is unused – plenty of spaces at the new lot where the old Sunrise apartments used to be behind the CJ lot, and at the old Janes Concrete location near Rita B Huff. It may not be as convenient, but it is definitely available.”
In addition to those parking options, the University is on track to fund two different parking garages in the coming years now that the housing troubles are under control.