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SD Public Universities Have Lots of Underused Classrooms and Housing

Northern State University was going to host an open house for the newly built Harvey C. Jewett Regional Science Education Center this week, but that shindig has been snow-postponed to next week Thursday, October 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

That will give NSU officials more time to consider the building usage rates discussed by the Board of Regents at their meeting last week in Madison. Evidently the new buildings our Regental institutions have been erecting are leading to lower usage rates for older buildings around campus. In Fall 2018, a year prior to the opening of the new science building, the BOR’s Facilities Utilization Report indicates that NSU had the lowest average weekly hours of classroom and lab instruction and lowest weekly use of student workstations among the six public university campi:

SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.
SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.
SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.
SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.

The Regents’ stated goals for using academic space are 35 hours per week for classrooms and 20 hours per week for labs. SDSU reaches 70% of that classroom-usage goal; Mines reaches 70% of that lab-usage goal. All other universities are below 70% of both of those usage goals.

Last year, pre-Jewett building, NSU had by far the highest square feet per full-time equivalent student enrolled, 35% more than at SDSU and 61% more than at Mines, at which institutions one would expect the heavier research taking place would require more lab space.

SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.
SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.

DSU has by far the least total square footage of academic facilities; it vies with Mines for lowest academic space per FTE.

Northern also has the lowest rate of campus housing utilization. It is the only state campus filling less than 80% of its dorm rooms.

SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.
SD Board of Regents, Agenda Item 6-A, October 2019.

If you attend the open house at the spacious new Jewett Center next Thursday, you might want to ask the university dignitaries in attendance how they plan to squeeze more use out of the increasing campus spaces amidst declining enrollment. Is it time for the Regents to rent out dorms to the public for year-round housing? Sell off some buildings to enterprising local businesses?


  1. grudznick 2019-10-11 10:31

    That’s an interesting idea, Mr. H. Imagine a bunch of young co-eds, living in the NSC dorms their first semesters, away from mommy and daddy for the first time, sharing their study rooms and bathrooms and day rooms with some derelicts once removed from living on the mean streets of Aberdeen. Imagine the friendships that would be kindled, perhaps over the cooperative efforts to purchase beer.

  2. Robert McTaggart 2019-10-11 12:18

    Yes, let’s build a new building to attract new students to campus and retain those students that are already on campus. Although it may have more functionality than the older building…if not better access to those with disabilities…we are not going to use the new building at all until the older ones are maxed out. That makes sense….

    You are not going to be perfect in this regard. To use a classroom for any particular hour, you must avoid time conflicts for at least 10 students (if not more). Those 10 students (or more) have to avoid conflicts in their schedules with the 4-6 other classes they are taking that semester…and each of those classes may be offered in only one section (particularly for courses outside of the general education courses).

    If you place the classroom too far away from another class without enough time between classes, students may not take the class in that building in that hour. So the enrollment drops below 10, and you may end up canceling the class and not using that room.

    Thus the problem is not linear in nature, but you can try to optimize things.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-11 12:30

    Now, Grudz, you know that’s not what I meant. But I wonder: can we consolidate certain academic and housing functions, empty out a building or two, and rent or sell those entire buildings to community clients who can put them to good use? Do our universities have any buildings that are profitably repurposable?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-11 12:32

    Robert, given all the complications of scheduling rooms, is the 35% usage goal realistic? Do you have any idea of whether that’s always been the goal, and whether we’ve achieved that goal over the years?

  5. Robert McTaggart 2019-10-11 12:46

    The short answer is no, as I don’t know what is going on behind the number.

    But I can see why one would want that number to be larger. There are likely other issues that need to be dealt with before that can be tackled. Like I said, it is not a linear problem. It is a hit the prairie dog here and five more pop up out of the ground kind of problem.

  6. Debbo 2019-10-11 22:30

    I’ve tried creating class schedules and I’ve decided that’s one of the best uses for computers.

    Steele and Kramer are about the same age and not particularly memorable buildings. If they could lease one to the city as a homeless shelter, that would be a wonderful use.

  7. John Dale 2019-10-14 10:05

    I tried to attend one of SD’s university’s for a PhD, but I’m a Nationalist, I’m white, I’m male, I support President Trump, and I have a family. All of this, as I understand it, runs contrary against the Chinese mandated entrance requirements.

    It would have been my great honor to attend one of SD’s universities, but I do not think they want well rounded Americans. They want self-absorbed agents who will tow the AI, anti-human line.

  8. Debbo 2019-10-14 14:21

    Yeah Dale. That’s why. Keep telling yourself that. 🤣🤣🤣

  9. mike from iowa 2019-10-14 14:39

    A certain someone certainly has a certifiable high opinion of hisownself, for certain sure.

  10. John Dale 2019-10-14 17:11

    Debbo and mike from iowa – I’m sure I’m incorrect. White men are NOT the scorn of the modern university neoliberal?!

    There was a time when a person (not just a woman or strangely self identifying neoasexual incel) having high self esteem was a good thing.

    You two are gas-lighters, and not the kind that go to fraternities and are typically the entertainment deep into the Saturday night after-game party.

    I should change my interests to something that appeals to SD universities .. what might that be? Near Eastern studies? :D

    You two take such low hanging bait .. why don’t you move beyond the cheap shots and get into the issue? Scared?

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-14 20:20

    (John Dale, take your conspiracy theories about your failure to get into the DSU Ph.D program elsewhere. Believe me, there is no bias in admissions against conservative white men in our Regental system.)

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-14 20:34

    Debbo, agreed: scheduling rooms is an easily automated task. My best friend Toby and I had a great time developing spreadsheets to schedule rooms at DSU for the oral interp contest we ran there.

    The challenge Robert mentions, trying to minimize walking distance from class to class for every student, may not be doable, with spreadsheets or not. Even within majors, we cannot predict which students will take which courses and which sections in which semester. We can optimize the schedule for professors so they get reasonable breaks and walk time, and we can logically keep certain programs’ courses near their home departments. But I think once we get to student registration, we pretty much have to let that situation resolve itself… and maybe teach young people to walk with a sense of purpose. (But uh oh: I wonder if ADA will rear its head in the scheduling question.)

    We will, of course, obviate the need for any such creative room scheduling when our universities move all of their courses online.

  13. John Dale 2019-10-14 20:35

    “no bias in admissions against conservative white men in our Regental system” — very absolute statement.

    My failure to get into DSU was .. expected.

    I can produce scores of these types of videos filmed on campuses from around the country.

    I think the analysis may be more nuanced. Something like, “anyone holding favorable views toward Christianity, nationalism, patriotism, constitutionalism, and free markets”, which is likely a white-male dominated demographic.

    Regarding DSU, I think candidates holding true to these values, having a track record for privacy, and being vocally against, and being a living breathing example of why social credit scores are a flawed means for providing security and for determining suitability for advancement to leadership positions within our communities.

    Regarding DSU, I would love to discuss this very difficult and nuanced issue in detail on my Internet radio show. I think we, and our respective audiences, would benefit tremendously from allowing us to plead our respective cases.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-14 20:47

    I know SDSU has increased its footprint since the good old days when I attended, but I had back-to-back classes that required travel from good old Scobey Hall to Ag Engineering east of Briggs. I hopped on my bike and made it every time.

  15. Debbo 2019-10-14 20:50

    When I went to NSU there was nowhere that was too far. 😊

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