At 39,931 students enrolled for the 2018 fall semester, Utah Valley University is the largest school in the state. Earlier this month, the Utah System of Higher Education released figures that show UVU has grown by 2,649 students from just a year ago, nearly triple the growth of all other public institutions in Utah.
Despite all of the growth, there remains around 3,500 beds in student housing apartments around campus, a far cry from the number university officials would like to see.
On the ballot of the midterm elections Nov. 6 sits Proposition 5, which gives Utah County residents the option of rezoning the Palos Verdes property east of campus for high-density housing. Doing so would allow PEG and the Woodbury Corporation to build a complex capable of housing up to 1,600 people, likely to be UVU students. This would be a major step in furthering UVU’s brand as a desirable university in the western United States.
In the last several years, UVU’s campus has transformed with the addition of the Student Life and Wellness Building where students now have a refuge to relax, exercise and eat as well as space to work for their clubs or other student-organizations. The Review’s newsroom is located in that building as is the UVUSA offices, where there is ample technology and means to further educational opportunities.
In the same time span, UVU’s athletic programs have soared to new heights of achievement and prowess. Sports, and especially basketball, so often an indicator of institutional notoriety nationwide – just ask Butler or Florida Gulf Coast University, give a school another sense of repute. Under the control of head coach Mark Pope, the men’s basketball team cracked the RPI top 100 last year for the first time in school history.
It no longer has the feel of a detached commuter school – gone are the days when students donning BYU and University of Utah apparel outnumber those in Wolverine green on the Orem campus – and yet, there’s scarcely more than 100 students in the MAWL section of the UCCU Center to watch Pope’s team take on conference foes.
Added student housing as close to campus as possible would help invigorate students to involve themselves more with extracurricular activities. That includes attending sporting events, gathering for club meetings and simply engaging more with their peers of differing majors on and nearby campus.
Suddenly students would be less worried about the commute home, or the decision of whether to drive home only to return to campus a few hours later for an event or meeting. Participation and interest around UVU would expand. The fabric of the university would evolve into one similar to that of BYU’s.
Martin has said that the university does not intend to infiltrate Orem with additional student housing east of campus in already established neighborhoods. The future is in Vineyard, to be sure. However, the Palos Verdes property would be a fantastic catalyst to change the culture surrounding UVU and the attitudes of those enrolled.
Orem residents concerned with the effect student housing would have on their neighborhood should consider they live next to a university. One that has been in existence and growing since 1941. Providing living quarters so close to school, and with the progression of public transportation, would help alleviate traffic. UVU students should have the chance to have an authentic college experience, and approving Proposition 5 would help facilitate that opportunity.
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Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.