Ballooning student population spurs off-campus purchases

by Kyle Kim

Whitworth University has spent over $2.8 million in nearby off-campus properties since 2007 in mea­sure of anticipated growth plans mentioned in the col­lege’s master plan that is due to be released in April.

The purchases in the past years will serve mainly to provide breathing room for potential growth in addition to creating a buffer for nearby Spokane residents from campus disturbance.

“The land is essentially worth more than the houses,” said Alan Jacob, associate director of student housing.

Whitworth now owns a total of 22 off-campus homes — mostly theme houses — all currently occupied by stu­dents, according to data collected by Student Housing.

The upcoming Whitworth University Campus Master Plan outlines both short and long-term property growth suggestions stretching to 2030. The plan includes prop­erty growth for both on and off-campus buildings.

Plans include building a new dormitory and the ex­pansion of the Hixson Union Building in the next two years to compensate for the unexpected increase of in­coming students.

The undergraduate population last year grew to the amount Whitworth expected would occur over a spread of five years, said Brian Benzel, vice president of finance and administration.

The Spring 2011 Enrollment Report released Thursday shows that undergraduate population increased by ap­proximately 43 percent in the past 10 years with 2,541 students currently enrolled.

The university plans to cap the number of undergraduates to 2,300 within the next three years to equalize the increased freshman class size from last year. Addi­tionally, Student Housing is planning to decrease the number of slots available for upperclassmen to live on-campus to remedy future problems of overflow in dor­mitories.

Financial incentives were given to students living on campus last fall to move off campus due to lack of space available in the dorms. A total of $63,450 was spent on two different incentive programs to move 52 students off campus, according to the financial aid department.

“We know that when we grow, we are creating demand for off-campus housing,” Benzel said.

Spokane County appraisal supervisor Joe Hollen­back said the presence of universities in neighborhoods generally raise property values nearby due to increased housing demands.

The year 2008 marked Whitworth’s biggest off-cam­pus property purchase when they paid $1.55 million for a bundle of property near campus. The university’s most recent purchase was a North Ivanhoe Road prop­erty which sold for $500,000 last December, according to public documents.

Location is an enormous factor when choosing to buy new off-campus property Benzel said.

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