FARGO — A $39.5 million residence hall for sophomores at North Dakota State University is almost ready to welcome students.

Most of the construction on Catherine Cater Hall, 1650 15th Ave. N., is done, and the 455-bed, six-story building will open this fall, according to a news release. There are some final touches that need to be completed, but those should be wrapped up by June 15, a spokesperson said.

"With the addition of Cater Hall, we should have the right mix of housing for our student community," NDSU spokeswoman Anne Robinson-Paul said in an email.

NDSU broke ground on the facility in September 2017 for the lone purpose of housing sophomores. The second-year students found themselves squeezed out of campus after their freshman year, according to The Forum archives.

Administration pushed for more on-campus housing for sophomores so they wouldn't have to compete with juniors and seniors for room.

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"Students who live on campus perform significantly better on an academic level than students who don’t live on campus," Robinson-Paul said. "Keeping sophomores on campus is an important piece to our retention and graduation success."

The occupancy rate at NDSU last fall was 85.7 percent, down from the historical average of 95 percent to completely full, according to North Dakota University System draft documents detailing proposals for the 2019-21 budget guidelines. That was due to an unexpected drop in enrollment, officials noted in the report.

The university's retention rates for incoming freshman has remained mostly steady over the last decade, ranging from 76 percent for the 2010 freshman class to a 10-year high of 81 percent for the 2007 freshman class, according to data from the North Dakota University System.

Students who enrolled as freshmen in 2016, the latest information available from the university system, had a retention rate of 80 percent.

Cater Hall, named after an NDSU teacher from the mid-20th century, is more than 150,000 square feet and features building services and community spaces on the first floor. A tunnel also will connect the hall to the West Dining Center.

Floors two through six each can house 90 students on each floor.

The dormitory is almost full, Robinson-Paul said, adding it likely will be full by move-in day.

It's unclear how many students will enroll at NDSU in the upcoming year, but it had a total 2018 fall enrollment of 13,796 students, including 2,726 sophomores, according to the university.

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