Boise State University

BSU gets OK for $40 million honors college building

Boise State University’s Honors College will get a bigger home, complete with living space for 656 students, in a new building across University Drive from the Student Union Building.

Honors College students will study and take classes together in the building, and they will occupy about half of its beds. The remaining living space will go to other students needing dorm space. Boise State filled its roughly 2,500 dorm beds last year and needs more room.

The State Board of Education approved the new building Thursday at its meeting in Meridian.

The building will be constructed and managed under Boise State’s first public-private partnership for a residence hall. A business will construct the building on land leased from the university. The business, EDR of Memphis, Tenn., will own the building. Students will lease dorm space from EDR. After 50 years, EDR will turn over the building to Boise State.

EDR is a publicly traded corporation that manages 42,000 student beds in 77 communities. The company reported $57 million in revenue in the second quarter and net income of $2.9 million.

Boise State tried a similar plan for student housing with another company in 2010 but backed away when a bond rating agency said any debt the company undertook to build a dorm on college property would affect the debt rating for the university.

Under this agreement, EDR will spend $40 million up front to build the building and will not incur any debt that could affect Boise State’s debt capacity or credit rating, school officials said.

Boise State’s newest construction venue follows a robust building program across the university over the past decade, largely paid for with increases in student tuition. President Bob Kustra still envisions a couple of additional academic buildings: one for fine arts and one for materials-science research.

Student fees will not go toward construction of the Honors College building, as they have many other buildings in recent years. University officials say they don’t know how much students will pay to lease bed space from EDR.

The 236,000 square-foot-building will be built where the former University Christian Church building was located. Boise State purchased the church site in 2013 for $5.9 million.

“Our current honors residence hall accommodates less than half of the honors students who live on campus,” said Andrew Finstuen, Honors College dean. “A new facility will help provide classrooms, community space and additional beds to not only support the honors college, but also the university community at large.”

The honors college has an enrollment of 600 students, many of whom live off campus.

The university says the college brings together gifted students who share living space with other students, overseen by faculty. They live in an enriched environment where students gather for discussions and seminars or to hear and talk with speakers. “The students living and learning together is really a great asset,” Kustra told the Statesman.