Too Soon To Tell If Increased Student Enrollment Would Mean More Students Off Campus

Aug 25, 2015

Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

 West Lafayette residents objected after the Tippecanoe Area Plan Commission last week recommended approval of an apartment complex aimed at students to be built northwest of campus. However, the university’s plan to increase enrollment could mean more such battles are on the horizon.

According to a plan commission report on student rental data, residential vacancies in West Lafayette are more common the further they are from campus. That, paired with the recent dip in the university’s student population, means planners have been hesitant in recent years to recommend new housing construction that doesn’t abut Purdue.

Assistant Planning Director Ryan O’Gara says there are two big factors the Commission looks at when making decisions about off-campus, student-oriented housing:

“One is the Purdue population, for sure, it’s the principle driver,” he says. “But coupled with that is Purdue’s willingness of lack of willingness to increase its on-campus housing supply.”

Purdue is currently at work on the 800-bed Honors College residential facility, scheduled to open in fall 2016. Last year, the school unveiled Third Street Suites, which can house 304 students.

“If Purdue is increasing its supply of housing on campus, that’s something we have to be cognizant of,” adds O’Gara.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels directed admissions officials to increase this year’s freshman class by several hundred students – a goal the school met. Daniels says he expects larger classes for at least the next few years.

O’Gara says he’s still seeing a relatively higher vacancy rate around what he refers to as “fringe” areas—those where residents would have to commute to campus --  and he expects city officials to concentrate on more development near Purdue.