Jim Garrett, center left, Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO, laughs with Governors State University president Elaine P. Maimon after Prairie Place's groundbreaking in University Park. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2013 6:41AM
Big changes are ahead at Governors State University.
With its first freshman class arriving for the 2014-15 school year, the university is set to hire new faculty and plans three dormitories that GSU officials hope also will boost its number of foreign exchange students.
“We were founded to be an innovative university, but we’re now moving to put that innovation into the 21st century,” university president Elaine Maimon said.
On Friday, GSU broke ground for a $20 million dorm, Prairie Place Residences, that will house 300 students and be located on the northwest side of the campus.
It’s the first of three dorms that university officials intend to build. Once the first reaches 90 percent occupancy, work will begin on a second dorm adjacent to the first one.
The dorms are needed because GSU is becoming a four-year university. It will begin accepting applications this fall for its initial freshman class.
Since opening in University Park in 1971, the university has offered courses for juniors and seniors as well as graduate and post-graduate studies.
About 175 construction workers are expected to be hired to build the dorm, which will serve most of the student population, with the exception of married students. FGM Architects and Mackey Mitchell Architects designed the building, which include a convenience store, and will oversee its construction.
The university has requested about $4.6 million in state funds to help build a new library and classroom building, but the money has yet to be awarded.
“We’re starving for capital improvement,” Maimon said.
Student housing costs are still unknown for the dorm, which is being financed through a 4 percent bank loan that’s to be repaid within 30 years from the dorm’s housing fees, according to Karen Kissel, GSU’s vice president for finance and administration.
With tuition set at $9,836 per year, the 270-member freshman class for 2014-15 will generate more than $2.6 million in revenue during its first year and will require 17 more faculty members. The second freshman class also will have 270 students.
Valerie McLeod, who graduated from the university in 2009, said she welcomed the changes.
“Why not?” McLeod said. “I think it’s a good school, and it will provide a great service for the community. It will provide quality, affordable education.”
Reinhold Hill, GSU’s dean of the college of arts and sciences, said the university recently added programs in anthropology, sociology, history, political science and media studies to keep up with student demand. Next year, it will offer degrees in theater and performance studies as well as gender and sexuality studies.
Maimon hopes to boost the size of GSU’s third freshman class to 500 students. She also hopes that a dorm will bring in more international students — particularly from China, Turkey, Taiwan and India, where Governors State has connections. She said the goal is to boost the number of international students from 70 today to 600 by 2018.