Lacking dorm space, university rents motel for $800K-plus

Jackson-State-Logo-300x237JACKSON — Facing more demand than it has dormitory beds, Jackson State University will spend more than $800,000 to rent a motel to house students for the coming school year.

The College Board voted unanimously yesterday to approve the plan to rent the 120-room downtown Jackson Travelodge from Bapu Hotels LLC. The money comes from student housing fees.

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds says Jackson State has 250 students awaiting housing. That’s in part because enrollment is expected to rise this fall at JSU.

“I think we’re doing a better job of telling the Jackson State story,” said spokesman Eric Stringfellow.

He said officials expect more than 9,000 students this fall, compared to 8,800 last fall. Stringfellow said the largest growth is in new freshmen and transfer students from community colleges. The space crunch is exacerbated by renovations at Alexander Hall, a campus dorm that will have 272 beds out of use again this fall. Next year, officials expect to be renovating the other 272-bed wing at the X-shaped residence hall in the heart of the school’s campus.

JSU considered multiple hotels before settling on the 240-bed Travelodge, more than 2 miles east of campus between the Mississippi State Fairgrounds and Interstate 55. The school will provide a shuttle service every 15 minutes, Stringfellow said, as well as security and residence staff at the site it plans to call Tiger Plaza.

Despite the distance from the campus, Stringfellow predicted Tiger Plaza would be popular with juniors and seniors who will be assigned there. There’s onsite parking, plus the rooms are larger than the traditional doubles in most of JSU’s dorms, and have in-room bathrooms.

“I think the experience will be pretty good,” he said.

Students will pay the same $2,149 per semester to live in the hotel as in half of a double room at JSU. Housing fees will pay enough to cover the cost of renting the hotel, but will cut into the profit JSU would otherwise make, Bounds said.

In addition to $715,000 to lease the entire hotel, Jackson State will also spend more than $90,000 to erect more fencing, pressure wash and paint the hotel and upgrade electrical outlets, smoke detectors and cabling.

It’s not uncommon for universities to lease hotels to handle student overflows. Stringfellow said the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi University for Women have both done so in the past.

But over the long run, JSU is looking at a new dormitory. Stringfellow said JSU is negotiating with a private company to build an 800-bed dorm on the northern edge of campus that JSU officials hope will be open by next fall. If not, the contract with Bapu Hotels has options for two additional years.

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