Campus renovations increase student fees for 2016-17

Karen Lopez
News Staff Writer
mlopez3@unca.edu

David Todd, the associate vice chancellor for campus operations, said student fees at UNC Asheville increased for 2016-2017 because of a renovation service fee for Highsmith was added.

“Renovation is paid for through the student-debt service fee, which all students pay each year to fund capital projects that do not receive state funding,” Todd said.  

He said state funds cannot be used to renovate or construct student unions and therefore funding must come directly from student fees. 

Grace Hennard, a junior new media student and employee of Highsmith, said she was informed of the renovations the building would undergo, but not about student fees increasing.

“I didn’t know about the raise of student fees, but I can now understand why they are increasing and I think it’s a good idea to renovate,” 21-year-old Hennard said.

Nancy Yeager, the associate vice chancellor for student affairs administration, said a feasibility study was performed a year ago to rethink space utilization of Highsmith to better meet the needs of students.  

She said the feedback of all the students and their ideas were incorporated into the study and the design of the renovations.

Highsmith Student Union is set to undergo major renovations beginning in 2017. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chad.Hutchins.
Highsmith Student Union is set to undergo major renovations beginning in 2017. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chad.Hutchins.

“The project will include the design and construction of a large multi-purpose room as an addition between the existing Highsmith Student Union and Brown Hall buildings, essentially “bridging” the two facilities,” Yeager said.

She said the general benefit of the Highsmith renovation is to create a welcoming and exciting student union being the heart of campus. The redesign will be a better functioning union that focuses on students and encourages more collaboration, engagement and community.

Todd said Owen Hall and Carmichael Hall were identified by the university and the State Construction Office as being in need of major renovations. Both halls were selected as part of the NC Connect Bond, as they are funded by state appropriations.

“Both buildings have been in continuous use for 36 years and 49 years respectively, with no major renovations or improvements,” Todd said. “The architectural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems are well past their normal life expectancy.”

He said Owen Hall does not have fire sprinklers and the heating and air conditioning systems do not comply with current standards for health and comfort. The building’s bathrooms, elevator, student art studios, art patio, and fixed seating classrooms do not meet the current Federal ADA Standards or the North Carolina Accessibility Code.

Carmichael Hall has safety hazards, as the fire alarm system is outdated, the fire stairs, fire sprinklers and the heating and air conditioning systems do not comply with current standards for health and comfort. The bathrooms and elevator do not meet the current Federal ADA Standards or the North Carolina Accessibility Code.  

“The planned renovations will modernize both Owen Hall and Carmichael and bring them up to the current building code including accessibility requirements,” Todd said. “The buildings will become modernized buildings that are reliable, comfortable and meet current building codes without affecting student tuition.”

Hennard said more residence halls need to be constructed and the current residence halls to be renovated.

“The construction of dorms could be better and should be more spacious for students,” Hennard said. “A lot of things need to be updated like the air-conditioning.”

Nancy Yeager said there is a demand for about 260 additional beds on-campus and UNCA is developing apartment-style housing based on input from students.  

Todd said UNCA will spend $15,100,000 on Owen Hall, $6,000,000 on Carmichael, $12,430,000 on Highsmith, and $34,000,000 on a residence hall. He said the Owen Hall and Carmichael Hall total comes from the Connect NC Bond of $21.1 million. 

“The negatives of both the renovations and new construction with be added complexities of attending, living on and operating a campus that will be undergoing approximately $67 million of construction over the next two, three years,” Todd said.

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