This year, the move-in madness that Bloomington and West Lafayette experience every August will be felt by a new college town: Indianapolis. IUPUI's commanding physical presence on the west side of downtown has long been notable for an absence of any real residential profile. But with the addition of about 750 beds in new campus apartments, the school is slowly shifting away from being solely a commuter campus.
IUPUI's new student housing
Ball Residence Hall, which houses 300 students, had long been the essential housing presence on IUPUI's campus until the 2004 school year, when the $40 million new campus apartments complex was opened. This school year, the campus is on track to have 77 percent of the new beds filled.
Hayward Guenard, IUPUI's director of housing and residence life, says the effect of the apartments on the greater Indianapolis housing market has been negligible, but that the effect on students will be significant. "National data shows that students who live on campus get better grades, report higher satisfaction and have higher graduation rates," he says. He points to IUPUI's special residential learning communities within the apartments, like the Women in Sciences House and the Purdue House, as places where students receive special on-campus attention.
Joi Coffie of Elkhart, who lived in one of the four-bedroom apartments last year, says she would recommend one of the buildings to future students. "I met a lot of new people," she says. And she notes a feature of living on campus she finds particularly appealing: "They have a lot of cookouts."
The new apartments are still a long way from changing Indianapolis. The traditional businesses and attractions that spring up around a major college campus are nowhere to be seen. IUPUI's apartments are comfortable and their brick walls make a fairly attractive presence on the White River, but the area is on the edge of campus, frequently ignored by commuter students if they are even aware of it. The apartment dwellers, at least, are exposed to some of Indianapolis' events through a Cultural Arts Series. Guenard thinks this might make them more inclined to stay in the city.
The apartments themselves may have an affect on the sort of student considering attending IUPUI. They "make IUPUI more attractive for what you call the traditional student," Guenard says. "If you're going after top scholars in any program, you're competing with other schools." The new apartments are one more attraction. IUPUI is also adding a new student center, with a groundbreaking ceremony in September.
Even in the long term, the apartments may not dramatically alter the near Westside. IUPUI's plans foresee at most 10 percent of its 29,000 students living on campus. The footprint of 2,900 students won't come close to the thousands more who attend IU and Purdue. It seems that IUPUI will remain mostly a commuter campus, but with a few inviting new places to live on campus for those looking to live somewhere a little closer to class with a greater sense of community.