Aerial view of WSU’s Innovation Campus
Starting this fall, Wichita State University’s largest residence hall — the only one on its main campus and the only one with a dining hall — will be reserved for first-year students.
Shocker Hall, an 800-bed dormitory that opened in 2014, will be designated for freshmen and first-year students in an effort to create a community of campus newcomers that will live and learn together, said Katie Austin, marketing and outreach coordinator for WSU’s division of housing and residence life.
“They’re all coming in and learning about Wichita State at the same time,” Austin said.
“Similar to the reason schools have that first-year seminar, it’s a chance to keep those students kind of together. . . We can really tailor our programming a little more to what first-year students need to see in order to feel engaged at the university and be successful.”
That means upperclassmen who elect to live on campus next year will be directed to either The Flats, an apartment complex on WSU’s Innovation Campus, or The Suites, a new residence hall under construction next to The Flats.
Austin said the university envisioned Shocker Hall as a freshmen-only dorm when it opened five years ago. But a shortage of on-campus housing — particularly after Fairmount Towers closed in 2017 — meant students at all grade levels had been allowed to apply for rooms in Shocker Hall, which is between Cessna Stadium and Morrison Hall.
“As we went through some growing pains and as we were shifting buildings and things, we had left that (Shocker Hall) open, and we had a lot of students who stayed with us year after year and really loved it,” Austin said.
“But based on our growing numbers, we’re able to fill it with only first-years, so we are moving to try to create that intentional community for our first-year students. We’ve seen that work well at other universities.”
Freshmen and first-year students likely will fill all the available slots at Shocker Hall this fall, she said. Some may be directed to The Suites, a dorm-apartment hybrid that features primarily two-bedroom suites with private bathrooms, kitchenettes, and a washer and dryer.
Rates at both Shocker Hall and The Suites range from $3,415 to $4,550 per person per semester, depending on the number of bedrooms and roommates. Prices at The Flats range from $3,450 to $4,600 per person per semester.
First-year students at WSU are required to buy one of three unlimited meal plans, which range from $2,215 to $2,540 per semester. Those plans allow unlimited meals in Shocker Dining, which is on the ground floor of Shocker Hall.
Upperclassmen living on campus also must buy a meal plan but can choose ones as low as $500 a semester, which can be used at any campus restaurant.
First-year students living in The Suites will have to walk, bike or ride shuttle buses from their rooms on the far east side of campus to Shocker Hall to use their meal plans. That’s “a little less than ideal,” Austin said, but it’s not out of the ordinary for large universities — or even for WSU.
“We’ve experienced those challenges before when we had our cafeteria over in Fairmount Towers and the students in Brennan Hall had to hike on over,” she said. “The distance is actually less than what we’ve had in the past, and pretty doable with our shuttle system.”
Austin said resident assistants — upperclassmen with experience living on campus who act as advisors to students in dorms — still will be assigned to Shocker Hall.
Officials project that about 1,500 WSU students will live on campus this fall. Some of that is due to recent efforts to offer in-state tuition to more out-of-state students, Austin said.
“The goal of the president is moving forward toward a more residential campus, so we’re excited that we’re hitting those numbers,” she said. “It really does add such an exciting vibe to campus when you have all those students here after hours, living in the space where they’re learning.”