By RANIA AMPNTEL CHAFINT/Montana State News

The Montana State Legislature is to vote on Romney Hall renovation plans in upcoming months, plans that would add more than 1,000 classroom seats at Montana State University, according to the university’s News Service.

The project to renovate Romney Hall would cost about $28 million to complete with Montana State University investing $1.7 million to from its reserve funds to support the project, according to the news service.

The renovation project is part of a package that includes “other state buildings and construction projects such as roads, bridges, and sewers,” according to Tracy Ellig, the executive director of university communications, “known as the ‘infrastructure package.’”

Currently, reserving classrooms at Montana State University is an extremely difficult process, with availability being rare even during the summer semester, according to Makiko Diehl, program coordinator at the MSU Office of International Programs.

“MSU has the highest classroom utilization rate in Montana and among the highest in the nation,” stated Ellig. “Utilization is expected to be even higher next academic year.”

Enrollment is increasing and students are taking more credits than before, “Utilization averages in the 70 plus percent range and reaches highs of 87-88 percent during peak times of the week,” according to Ellig.

“There is no way we can use regular classrooms during the semester,” Diehl said. “In the summer, well-equipped classrooms are already reserved for courses.”

“We’re in desperate need of class space at Montana State University,” said Kirk Branch, chair of the English department at MSU.

According to the Montana State University Admissions Office, the university has been breaking new enrollment records for the past five years, with 2016 enrollment numbers having increased by 18 percent since 2011.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the renovations plans have been proposed to the 2013 and 2015 Legislatures, having failed both times as legislators believed the state couldn’t afford such spending.

However, the prospects have improved since then. Ellig states that, “There seems to be some cautious optimism in Helena that the package has a better chance than it did in 2015,” when it failed by a single vote.

– edited by Jared Miller

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