The growth of BYU-Idaho and Rexburg is causing excitement, positive and negative. Some residents and students are voicing complaints
about housing, parking and overcrowding.
BYU-I currently has about 14,600 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students each semester and is serving about 23,000 FTE students each year.
When it was announced in 2000 that Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho, Rexburg had a population of about 17,000. Twelve years later, Rexburg has an estimated population of 30,000 people.
Charles Anderson, University Resources vice president, said he is very supportive of the growth at BYU-I.
The university is currently admitting an additional 1,000 students every year.
The enrollment cap was recently approved to reach 18,000 FTE students. Anderson estimated that BYU-I will reach this enrollment by 2018.
Construction has begun on the new agricultural science building that will be located in place of the old baseball fields.
The new building will provide 120,000 square feet of lab and classroom space and will house a student stake.
BYU-I also plans to completely remodel the David O. McKay Library. It hopes the designs will be finished within a year.
Anderson said the university plans to open it up and make it more accessible and user-friendly.
The university is also considering another multi-use building similar to the Hinckley, which would house two married-student stakes as well as offices for 60 faculty members, or a department.
BYU-I is modifying the heating plant, which provides the heating for campus. The plant will switch to natural gas, rather then coal, as the primary fuel source.
Switching to natural gas is a more efficient and economical option for the university, as well as a more environmentally friendly option.
Anderson said the baseball fields will either be added to the other sporting venues available on campus, or possibly across the street from existing fields.
Currently, the university plans on building off-campus apartments to accommodate up to 850 students; the apartments will be located east of the Ivy.
Apartments to house up to 2000 students are anticipated to be finished within the next year by other developers.
In the long-term, the university looks to redevelop College Avenue for housing.
“The buildings were in such a poor condition. In [the city’s] hey day, that was where anybody that was anybody lived,” Anderson said.
As evident in the 2000 and 2010 censuses, Rexburg continues to feed off the growth of the university.
Both the city and BYU-I say there is a strong and vital tie between the university and the city, as both continue to prosper and grow in spite of current infrastructure limitations and isolated location.
“Rexburg would not be Rexburg without BYU-Idaho. [The community] understands that, and we understand that we have to be a good player in the community and want to be a good player in the community,” Anderson said.
BYU-I and the city of Rexburg plan to keep student housing as central and close to campus as possible as it continues to grow, despite complaints from some long-term Rexburg residents.
Community Development Director, Val Christensen explained the city’s plan to redevelop the older areas of the community closer to campus so that student housing is built on already existing infrastructure.
Christensen said the city anticipates the redevelopment of areas close to campus will save tax dollars, keep outside farmlands untouched, keep student housing in a concentrated section of the city, limiting traffic and congestion in other areas of town.
“I know that Rexburg is going to get bigger, and it actually makes me sad. Rexburg is a nice, clean little town,” said Rexburg resident Ryan Shirley.
Shirley said he was disappointed to learn that someday Rexburg might be comparable to Provo, Utah.
“I’d rather have [student housing] in town isolated. Everybody knows where the school is; if you move closer to it, you are going to deal with the students,” Shirley said.