GVSU approves $18.9M land purchase

Ryan Jarvi

Grand Valley State University’s Board of Trustees approved an $18.9 million purchase of nearly 11 acres of land around the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids to expand GVSU’s medical campus.

The university previously owned four acres of property on the north side of I-196 near the CHS building, and the purchase—between Hastings and Trowbridge streets and Clancy and College avenues—has increased the university’s total property to 18 acres in that area.

The purchase is to ensure the university is prepared for possible growth in the health-related fields, as well as additions of future programs, said Matt McLogan, vice president for University Relations at GVSU.

“I’ve always been very grateful my predecessors, as officers of the university, have always made sure Grand Valley has had adequate land for development,” McLogan said. “Land equates to flexibility for universities. When you add additional land and therefore the ability to add additional facilities, you have the opportunity to add or change programs.”

University officials estimate about 5,000 students taking health-related courses this semester, which includes those enrolled in pre-health courses that must be taken before acceptance into the secondary admissions programs.

Cynthia McCurren, dean of the Kirkhof College of Nursing, considers GVSU’s undergraduate nursing programs to be operating at full capacity, which results in a number of applicants who are turned away.

During the 2012-2013 admissions cycle for the Bachelors of Science in nursing program, McCurren said KCON had 407 eligible applicants for the upper division and denied nearly 60 percent of those.

“The primary limitations to increasing enrollment in the undergraduate programs is lack of clinical sites for clinical education and shortage of nursing faculty,” she said. “The expansion, none the less, will still benefit the undergraduate students, as it will allow for enhanced integration of necessary content and innovation in delivery of the educational programs.”

McCurren also noted that there is a significant demand for graduate degree programs to expand, which the additional property will help make possible.

Considering enrollment

According to GVSU’s Institutional Analysis, KCON and the College of Health Professions have a total of 3,171 students currently enrolled, which is an increase of 2 percent since 2009’s headcount of 3,105.

While the CHP has increased its enrollment by 37 percent since 2009, enrollment in KCON has seen a steady decrease, dropping by 30 percent.

The decreasing enrollment of KCON could be attributed to a restructured program, McLogan said. Previously, KCON had three cohorts starting in the fall, winter and spring semesters. The program has been redesigned so that cohorts begin only in fall and winter semesters.

“The number of BSN students matriculating in the upper division courses will be lower than usual for fall 2013 and winter 2014 due to the implementation of a new curriculum—to comply with new accreditation standards—and a change in the matriculation pattern,” McCurren said. “We have not, however, decreased the number of students admitted to upper division per year.”

KCON is a secondary admissions program. Students can declare nursing as their major whenever they choose, but they aren’t necessarily admitted into the college at that time.

“After the completion of the designated prerequisite courses, they then apply to upper division nursing, which is the discipline-specific content,” McCurren said. “We continue to admit the same numbers to upper division. The ‘decrease’ report by Institutional Analysis is a reflection of fewer incoming students declaring nursing as a major.”

McCurren attributes this decline to students being less inclined to pursue nursing due to intense competition, as well as to “increased media coverage that the ‘nursing shortage’ may be over.” However, she confirmed that the “projected need for thousands of more nurses by 2020 is still very real.”

About the money

The proposal, which was announced Thursday and approved at the board meeting on Friday, states that the Campus Development Fund will be used to finance the purchase, and tuition will not be raised to offset expenses. “The Campus Development Fund has been around for years,” McLogan said. “It is a source of funds for making campus improvements.”

McLogan said most of the revenue stream that goes into it comes from the general fund’s ongoing operations, which can include left-over money from departments’ budgets.

Residents of the property that GVSU purchased will be allowed to remain in their homes until the project actually begins, which isn’t expected for another five years. University officials said the residents would have at least one year’s notice before they would have to leave their homes.