At a student forum on January 16, President Dianne Lynch addressed questions and concerns students had about programs, policies and changes occurring on campus. A common concern among several students was the sale of Hillcrest Hall and the Stephens College Auditorium. Lynch discussed the sale and its impact on students, though many of the details have yet to be finalized.
The buildings were sold to the Hagan Scholarship Foundation. The Foundation aims to assist high-achieving students who exhibit financial need and live in rural counties to attend a four-year college or university. It is seeking to expand its services and offer an academically intensive college preparatory academy for high school juniors and seniors who meet the scholarship’s qualifications.
For this to happen, the buildings must be rezoned by the City of Columbia. Lynch stated in a campus-wide email that the sale is “contingent upon rezoning” and that the rezoning will “restrict the (foundation) from using the property for anything except its foundation offices, its Academy and/or professional office buildings.”
After the rezoning of the buildings for non-residential purposes, the foundation plans to raise the buildings and begin construction of new facilities on the Hillcrest site. The site of the old Auditorium will be developed once the foundation determines the best use for that space.
In a strategic plan proposed by the college approved in 2010, Stephens concluded that its future space needs did not include both Hillcrest and the Auditorium. The 2,400-seat Auditorium has not been used for its intended purposes in some time and is currently being used primarily for storage and practice space. It is not cost effective to maintain a building of that size for space that can be allocated more efficiently.
When Stephens boasted a larger student population, it was necessary to use Hillcrest to house the young women. Now, however, with fewer students enrolled, it is no longer imperative to do so.
In a press release issued by Stephens College in December, Lynch stated, “it didn’t make sense to invest significant resources in properties we truly don’t need.”
Ryan Smith, director of residence life, estimated about 20 female students and five male students live in the Hillcrest apartments and the lower level, respectively. Many of these students are seniors this year, leaving few students to find housing elsewhere.
“Although Hillcrest will not be a part of the campus after this year, these students will have other housing options. More details on the fall housing plan should be available later this semester,” Smith said.
A Transition Committee comprised of members of the Stephens community will assist in determining the best and most appropriate places to house the offices, studios and shops and displaced students affected by the sale.