Classes for the fall semester started Tuesday at University of Alaska Southeast. More than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled at the university’s Juneau campus.
About a hundred freshmen have settled into campus life at UAS’s new residence hall. The $14.3 million facility opened at the end of August.
UAS student Matt Magnusson is helping his friend move into the new freshman residence hall.
“We just went upstairs and they’re so nice. There’s an actual refrigerator and freezer and there’s just so much more room and everything’s so clean,” Magnusson says.
His friend Delaney Jones drove two days from Delta Junction. She didn’t want to go to University of Alaska Fairbanks because it was too close to home.
On the fifth floor of the new dorm, Jones marvels at her new Juneau home.
“I have my bed and it has drawers underneath, which is really convenient because the closets are not as big as I thought they would be. And then I have such a nice view of Auke Lake and, like, the rest of the campus,” Jones says.
UAS’s new residence hall can house up to 120 students in suites that feature a shared kitchen area and bathroom. Construction started May of 2013 and finishing touches were completed just before students moved in at the end of August.
Two floors below, Samantha Ferguson walks into her dorm room for the first time. The 18-year-old from central Indiana flew to Juneau by herself and traveled light – she’s moving to college with only one suitcase.
“It’s got clothes. I had to bring travel size hygiene because my suitcase had to be 50 pounds or less. And I’ve got blankets and here I’ve got a couple of shoes and I actually have food and laundry stuff in there,” Ferguson says.
She’s studying marine biology and figured being in Juneau would be a perfect fit. She says it took her a year of working at a McDonald’s in Indiana to afford moving to Alaska.
“I saved more than half of every paycheck. I worked part-time when I was in high school and then during the summer I went to a full-time and got a raise. So, I definitely saved up a lot of money,” Ferguson says.
She also took out loans and got a housing scholarship, so she doesn’t have to worry about the $5,000 it costs to live in the new freshmen dorm for nine months.
Upperclassmen living on campus are housed in Banfield Hall or in one of seven apartment buildings and pay up to $6,800 for two semesters.
Director of Campus Life Eric Scott says cost is part of the incentive of living on campus.
“In terms of being in the Juneau community, we’re very competitive,” Scott says.
It’s been about 20 years since the campus opened a new dormitory. UAS can now house about 380 students, but only about 60 percent of the beds are filled. About half living on campus are from Southeast. A quarter comes from elsewhere in Alaska, with another quarter from 23 other states. One international student from Japan calls the UAS campus home.
Scott hopes the number of students living on campus will grow.
“We were close to capacity every year prior to opening this new residence hall. And so now we have the ability to add some more students on campus. We’re hoping that some of those folks who have gone off campus for a variety of reasons will come back and join us now that we have this brand new residence hall and a really great program to surround it,” Scott says.
The university has staff members living in the new residence hall. Scott says there are several common areas for studying and meeting in groups, “so that students can spend time outside of their rooms but still in the residence hall. One of the other great things – up on our fourth floor, we have a conference/classroom where folks can meet, folks can host classes. And that’s really the way that we’re moving, is bringing the academic programs back into the residence halls.”
As students steadily move into the new freshman residence hall, they unpack suitcases and boxes of belongings, quickly filling up the empty rooms and bare walls.