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July 10. 2012 11:01PM

SNHU wants to build dorm for 300 students

HOOKSETT —Southern New Hampshire University is one step closer to building a new dormitory that will add 300 extra beds.

According to town documents, the 20,030-square foot, four-story residence hall will have 152 dorm rooms and an apartment for the residence director. The Planning Board accepted the university's completed application this week.

SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said a major spike in enrollment in recent years has made the new construction necessary.

“We've seen a record number of applications over these last few years,” he said. “We're attracting new students, we're attracting better students and we're growing.”

This past year, around 2,500 students enrolled at SNHU as full-time undergraduates, and approximately 1,800 lived on campus, said university spokesman Greg Mazzola. These figures are not expected to change significantly in the 2012-2013 school year.

LeBlanc said that the university does not have enough housing for all its students, so for the past two years some students have been assigned to live in local hotels. This practice is expected to continue in the fall and was a major factor in the school's decision to build a new dorm.

“We can't keep putting students in hotels,” said LeBlanc. “It's not the best way to start your college experience.”

SNHU's campus straddles the border between Manchester and Hooksett, with both municipalities housing university facilities, including nine dormitories and additional apartment- and townhouse-style student accommodations.

The new dorm is planned to be constructed on East Side Drive, where four residence halls are already located.

LeBlanc said plans for the building are still in the design process, but the university intends for it to be a two-winged building, featuring suites with individual bathrooms so that outside groups could rent the rooms when school is not in session.

“If you can imagine in the summer, if we wanted to host a conference, it would still really work for adults,” he said.

With the application before the Planning Board complete, the project moves on to a public hearing at the board's next meeting on Aug. 6, when neighbors of the property and other community members will be able to weigh in on the expected impact. At this time, the university may also request waivers from ordinances and development regulations, said Town Administrator Dean Shankle.

The university's goal is to have the dorm open for student use in September of 2013. Leblanc said construction will take about a year, so they're looking to break ground soon.

The new dorm is part of a larger, $60 million project that includes a new library, parking garage and $5 million in landscaping improvements. A bigger and more complicated building, the library is set to open for the spring 2014 semester.

LeBlanc said financing from the upgrades will come primarily through a bond, and the additional tuition brought in by the increased enrollment will allow the school to pay back what it borrows.

“It will pay for itself over time,” he said. “We will have enough new revenue to cover all of the debt service and operational costs.”

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Katie Lannan may be reached at klannan@newstote.com.


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