SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will lease dozens of apartments in a single complex downtown meet a growing demand for student housing.
The university's board of trustees approved the lease at its meeting Tuesday, an arrangement that could span four years and will cost the university approximately $800,000 a year.
The downtown housing - 290 beds - will be located at 343 S. 500 East at a complex named Elevate on 5th.
The units would become part of the university's housing options and likely will be priced at rates comparable to newer and upscale on-campus complexes such as Lassonde Studios or the Marriott Honors Community, said Ruth Watkins, the U.'s senior vice president of academic affairs.
Watkins said there is a growing demand for university housing, evidenced by a record 2,000 first-year students who elected to live on campus this fall. The incoming freshman class is expected to be even larger. More than half of campus dwellers are Utah residents.
Research shows U. students who live on campus have higher grade-point averages throughout their college careers than peers who live off campus.
Moreover, students who live on campus are 12 percent more likely to graduate, Watkins said.
"Once we know that, we have a responsibility to make that capacity available," Watkins said.
Despite the academic and social advantages of on-campus living, the University of Utah does not require first-year students to live on campus, primarily because it does not have enough student housing to accommodate the entire freshman class, Watkins said.
But the addition of 290 beds of temporary housing will help accommodate what Watkins described as "a very talented" group of first-year students as they return to the U. next fall.
"We want them to stay with us, succeed and finish their degrees," she said.
Board of trustees Chairman H. David Burton said the lease proposal "has a lot of merit."
"It's a nice problem to have," he said.