Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 | 2 a.m.
The first day of classes at UNLV is Monday, but more than 1,200 UNLV students have been on campus since moving into the dormitories Thursday.
Although UNLV is known mainly as a commuter school, there are four dormitory complexes on campus with more than 1,300 beds.
Before the recession hit Las Vegas, UNLV had planned to build out on-campus housing to about 3,500 beds. However, budget cuts and plateauing student enrollment curtailed plans, and UNLV shuttered its fifth dorm complex a few years ago.
Now, with gradual signs of an economic comeback, plans are under way at UNLV for a new stadium project called UNLV Now. This 60,000-seat stadium complex — complete with apartments, retail and dorms with up to 5,000 beds — has been dubbed a "game-changer" by UNLV officials.
In anticipation of this major campus project — which is still in the planning stages — UNLV began renovating its existing dorms two years ago. The modernization cost so far: $1.7 million, paid in large part by room and board fees.
These renovations have brought a bevy of changes to dorm life on campus, including Wi-Fi Internet access and cable TV access to more than 180 channels in all dorm rooms. Over the past year, two dorms were completely overhauled with new roofing, furniture, paint jobs, carpeting, kitchens and, in one dorm, new 50-inch TVs in the common area.
The dormitory makeover will surely be welcomed by the largely freshmen and sophomore students living in university housing this year. Any student who comes to UNLV from a high school outside of Southern Nevada is required to live on campus during their freshman year.
Nearly 400 on-campus students are from Nevada, which represents the largest student group — geography-wise — living in residence halls. Other large on-campus student populatioms come from California, Hawaii, Korea and China, in descending order.
This year, UNLV began offering $1,000 scholarships to qualifying Clark County School District graduates who agreed to live on campus during their freshman year. It's all part of a gradual push to change the perception of UNLV from a commuter school to a vibrant university teeming with on-campus students.
"You're going to get the full college experience when you live on campus," said Richard Clark, UNLV's director of housing and residential life. "When you live off campus, you're just another nameless face living in an apartment."
Clark oversees a department of 120 housing and facilities employees, including about 90 upperclassmen serving as resident assistants.
Not only do on-campus students have better access to university resources, but they also do a half-grade to full-grade better academically than their off-campus peers, Clark said. University denizens are also better connected to campus going-ons and often build more friendships with other students.
Clark would know. Clark's wife was formerly his resident assistant when he was an on-campus student at Purdue University.
Interested students must fill out a five-question housing application to request a dorm. The five questions gauge the compatibility between two or three roommates, including whether the students smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, whether they are a morning or a night person and if they are generally a neat or messy person.
There are eight tiered costs for the dorms, based on the size of the dorm room and the amenities in the building. Room rates per semester run from $2,700 for a double room in the South complex to $3,720 for a single room in the Tonopah complex.
All dorms require a RebelCard to enter through the main doorway and inside rooms. All the entryways have interior and exterior security cameras, although there is no security guard posted at each dorm. Resident assistants and UNLV police officers patrol the dorms on a regular basis.
Prohibited items include heating elements and flammable fluids, weapons, drug paraphernalia, candles, fireworks and empty alcohol containers. Each dorm has smoke and carbon dioxide detectors as well as a sprinkler system, and students have two mandatory fire drills each semester. UNLV strongly recommends that students purchase renter's insurance.
All rooms come equipped with an air conditioner and heater. All the dorms are within close walking distance to the campus gym, library, tutoring, health center and student union. Each dorm building has vending machines, elevators and lounges with common TVs. There is also at least one laundry room with at least three washer and dryer units in each building.
Forget digging in the couch seats for quarters — all UNLV students need to operate the laundry machines is a swipe of their RebelCard preloaded with money. In the near future, UNLV is planning on replacing these top-loading machines with front-loading machines that connect to the Wi-Fi Internet system to alert residents via text or email when their laundry is done.
There are 90 resident assistants overseeing UNLV's on-campus students. One resident assistant is assigned to each floor, with up to a dozen RAs living in each dorm building. There is also one counselor living in each residence complex. These professional advisers — many of whom have master's degrees — help mediate conflicts between roommates and check up on low-performing students during each semester.
UNLV does not have apartment-style housing for upperclassmen. The university is currently working on a public-private partnership to build an apartment-style dorm complex within the next five years, Clark said.