Eastern Michigan University will waive student housing fees to two private companies for the next 35 years.
The university transfers student housing revenue to EMU Campus Living LLC and Gilbane Development Company in exchange for two new residence halls, the demolition of older units, and the renovation of all remaining residence halls except for one that has been recently renovated.
The EMU Board of Directors has approved the lease of the campus housing system to EMU Campus Living, LLC. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will design, construct, renovate, maintain, improve and operate most aspects of the buildings in the University’s housing system. Gilbane Development Company was selected as the operating partner of the EMU student housing system in December 2021.
“We are really excited about what these residences will bring to the campus community in terms of state-of-the-art Wi-Fi capabilities, air conditioning and room layouts that truly meet the needs of students,” said said the university spokesman. Melissa Thrasher.
The university will retain student-facing services such as residence life, information technology, residence assignments, billing and collection services, marketing and management of compliance with housing agreements, according to a communicated.
Accommodation rates will be approved by the university and the two companies.
Any increase in the housing rate “exceeding 3.4% or the Consumer Price Index (but not exceeding 6.8%) requires University approval,” according to a press release from the University. EMU.
Construction is expected to start this summer. Design work has been underway for several months.
The full deal is not yet available, according to Thrasher.
The project, called “Welcome Home 2025”, will include the construction of a roughly 400-bed apartment-style residence next to the Student Center. The current apartments near the university’s athletics complex will be demolished to make way for a new residence with approximately 300 beds.
All other residence halls – with the exception of Wise Hall which was renovated in 2017 – will be renovated to include improved Wi-Fi, air conditioning and new designs and amenities.
The decision did not go without criticism.
According to the press release, the university has also spoken with student government, the university’s budget council, and the faculty senate to get feedback on the project.
The Faculty Senate was particularly critical. In December, the faculty voted without confidence on EMU President James Smith. This was partly over what was seen as a push to privatize halls of residence.
“By privatizing what we believe to be one of the most important aspects of university life, we are concerned that having a for-profit motive in the university-student relationship will be problematic for students in in terms of costs and any kind of fees, damages fees, things like they might incur in the future,” said Robert Carpenter, chairman of the faculty Senate Budget and Resources Committee and member of the university’s budget committee.
EMU maintained that this was not a decision to privatize housing.
“I want to make it clear that the University never considered privatizing student accommodation,” Smith said in a December statement. “As part of this plan, Eastern is working with an experienced team of partners who would provide financing, construction and operational expertise for new and renovated housing.”
Carpenter also said the university needs to find stable revenue streams that can offset fluctuations in student enrollment.
“By privatizing one of these revenue streams, we have a real concern about the financial sustainability of the university’s future,” Carpenter said.
The university already has public-private partnerships for parking and dining, and students, staff, and faculty have been debating the issue for years.
Carpenter referenced negative experiences with the parking contract and said he feared the accommodation had similar pitfalls. Former student body president Luis Romero and the rest of the student government have raised concerns with the administration about public-private agreements. since 2019.
“In the end, I couldn’t completely change my mind,” Romero said. “And with something this massive, they were always going to do what they wanted, but I wanted to make sure the deal was the best it could be to help meet the needs of the students. … I think we were able to make progress with the administration.
The main concerns Romero brought to the administration were housing rates, unfair monetary penalties, and maintaining control over student services, such as appeals processes, room assignments, and billing. The university said it would retain control of these services.
Correction: The title has been updated to indicate that the university’s campus housing system is leased to EMU Campus Living, LLC. A previous title indicated that it was leased to the two private companies.