Record number of students living in campus housing at UH-Hilo

A record number of students this fall are living in campus housing at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

There are 781 student residing on campus, out of 850 total available beds. There were 722 students living in campus housing last fall.

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UH-Hilo housing is “at the highest occupancy we’ve ever been at,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes.

UH-Hilo’s newest residence hall, Hale ‘Alahonua, a 300-bed, suite-style dormitory, struggled to fill all its beds since opening in fall 2013, but did markedly better this fall compared to past years.

Part of the $28 million project was funded with a 30-year, $17 million revenue bond to be paid back through money generated from housing fees, the Tribune-Herald previously reported.

Occupancy rates, however, have fluctuated since the dormitory opened, measuring 57% that first year and dipping as low as 39% in 2015.

But Hale ‘Alahonua — which had 185 student residents last fall — has 246 residents this fall, a record-high occupancy rate of 82%.

And once an air-conditioning project underway is completed next year, Gomes said “we expect occupancy in Hale ‘Alahonua to increase even more.”

Occupancy at the university’s other dorms was relatively flat. According to numbers provided by Gomes, there are 205 student residents at Hale ‘Ikena, compared to 201 in fall 2018; 57 at Hale Kanilehua, compared to 55 last fall; 68 at Hale Kauanoe, compared to 67 last fall; and 205 at Hale Kehau, compared to 214 last fall.

“I am excited about this semester’s occupancy data and ecstatic for our housing staff who have worked extremely hard over this last year as they focused on improving all aspects relating to the residential experience,” Gomes said.

There are several factor that might have led to the increase in housing numbers, she said.

In October 2018, a new housing director was hired, “bringing with her a knowledge base that added to the existing skill sets of our current staffing structure,” Gomes said. “During her on-boarding, there was early emphasis on marketing and communication while working internally to improve efficiency.”

Housing also partnered with other units across the campus and with colleagues at Hawaii Community College, “as we look at ways of being more comprehensive in the way we help meet our students’ needs.”

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Gomes said UH-Hilo also hired an associate director of residence life, whose role is focused on enhancing the environment and experiences within the residence halls.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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