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Growth spurs changes at MSU

Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:27:08 AM MST   Updated On: Sep 11 2013 03:41:18 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

MSU's record-setting growth is set to spur big changes. The Board of Regents is expected to approve changing the honors program to the honors college, plus a 400-bed residence hall with a price tag of about $35 million.

"I've always considered myself an intellectual." MSU freshman Jonathan Hamilton tells us regular classes bore him.

It's why he's doing more reading, more in-depth discussions in smaller more seminar-based classes -- the honors program, soon to be called the honors college.

"I feel like it will more accurately define the work we put into the honors program, letting employers and future colleges, like grad schools and law school, know it's a lot more serious of a thing than what a 'program' sounds like," explains Hamilton.

Honors Program Director Dr. Ilse-Mari Lee affirms, "It's a big plus for our students to have that designation on their transcript."
She explains honors students get a second degree in addition to their major. They have to take two semesters worth of foreign language, have a 3.5 GPA and complete 16 course credits in honors programs.

Lee tells us students won't be able to tell a difference between the "program" and the "college" but says this is a historic move for the program and a validation of how it's grown over the years.

"We're very proud. This year we graduated our largest graduating class in our 32-year history of 80 students," says Lee.

Folks with MSU say enrollment has increased by 24 percent in the last six years. They say they expect to set a record this year with more than 15,000 students. It's one reason why they're looking to build a new residence hall.

"We're looking at growth over the next couple of years, so we're starting now," says MSU Director of Auxiliary Services Tom Stump.

Stump tells us they need to build to keep up with the competition, not to mention the fact MSU's residence halls are full. He explains they've already taken over one of family graduate's complexes, but even with an additional 90 beds in their new Hedges Suite and 21 extra spots in Quad F, Stump says, "We still had about 58 people in lounges for about five days."

Stump explains most of the students are freshmen, so they're looking at locations close to the campus core, near a dining hall, ideally closer to existing halls. Spots like the two parking lots south of Roski and South Hedges, a lot west of Roski that would infringe on the intramural fields, the Gatlan lot, in between the fitness center and the physical plant, then two spots in the north side of campus near the animal bioscience building.

When we asked Stump about financing, he tells us they have the ability to take on additional debt.

"A lot of this construction will be on borrowed bonding money," Stump says.

It's money they'll have to pay back with profits from their existing operations.

Stump explains they're interviewing architects this week. Design is expected to take close to a year. They hope to break ground on construction by next fall and be ready for students by Fall of 2016.

Stump tells us they're just presenting information at the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. They hope to get full approval at the November meeting but Stump explains they're updating the board and got authority from the commissioner's office to find an architect for the project.