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Most community colleges say building dorms is good plan

2011-08-13T23:30:00Z 2012-08-02T12:53:38Z Most community colleges say building dorms is good planOMAR RICARDO AQUIJE -- Glens Falls Post-Star

In June, Dutchess Community College broke ground on a 465-bed residential hall. In Schenectady, the community college is working with a company to build a student housing complex adjacent to the campus.

At Finger Lakes Community College, a residential hall opened in 2007 and officials want to add more to meet a demand that leads to a long wait list in the fall.

Across New York, at least 15 of the state's 30 community colleges have student housing, and the list is growing.

SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury might soon join the group. The community college has designs for a 406-bed housing facility on campus, and is now determining the cost and means to finance it.

Like other community colleges, SUNY Adirondack has seen a surge in enrollment over the last two years at the same time it faces cuts in state aid.

Student housing has allowed community colleges to raise enrollment, increase revenue, add diversity and provide a complete college experience.

Some have distinct programs that draw students from afar, but need to provide them with a place to live. Others have seen local students who wanted on-campus living with the affordable cost of a community college.

Ronald Heacock, president of SUNY Adirondack, said he's not surprised that most of the state's community colleges have student housing.

"More and more, the four-year schools, they don't have the capacity to take students," Heacock said. "They are getting more selective all the time. There are a lot of students who would like to live away and have the college experience."

SUNY Adirondack has spent more than a year exploring housing, which began with a study that showed students were interested in living on campus.

Since community colleges are barred from owning residential halls, SUNY Adirondack took an approach that others have done to side-step the law. The Faculty Student Association, which oversees the cafeteria and book store, formed the Adirondack Housing Association, LLC, which will own the housing complex.

Heacock said construction will cost around $20 million, but the price will be a few million more after factoring in the expense of borrowing money.

Revenue from room and board is supposed to pay for the project.

The college is working with a developer to come up with a guaranteed maximum price, Heacock said.

Heacock said the Board of Trustees has to commit to the project, a decision that may come in September or October.

Along with SUNY Adirondack, community colleges such as SUNY Ulster and Columbia-Greene are interested in offering housing to students.

Ron Marquette, a spokesman at SUNY Ulster, said the college is in the preliminary stages of studying student housing, but sees it as a benefit that could create a broader college experience for students.

"I think most community colleges view that this is going to be the future for community colleges," he said.


Tompkins Cortland Community College added an apartment complex adjacent to the campus in the 1990s.

It took a few years for the apartments to fill up. But then the demand increased, and the college has since added five more buildings, giving it a total of 814 beds, said Peter Voorhees, a college spokesman.

The majority of the students who live on campus came from outside of the college's two-county region.

The college found that students wanted a more complete college experience. It has added diversity on campus and a means for students to learn living on their own, he said.

"Going off to college is learning to live on your own with a safety net," Voorhees said. "In that regard, it's a great educational opportunity for the students."

Herkimer County Community College has three apartment-style complexes on campus that can accommodate about 625 students.

Herkimer has approximately 3,700 full- and part-time students, and about 60 percent come from outside Herkimer County.

Rebecca Ruffing, the college's director of public relations, said the apartments help attract students to the college.

"It allows them to have an experience like they might have at a four-year college," she said. "The student life experience is part of the college experience we offer."

Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica was the first community college in the state to have student housing when it opened a residential hall in 1966.

Another residential hall opened in 2006 and the college has started a feasibility study looking at more student housing, said Matthew Snyder, director of marketing and communications.

The college has 500 beds, but has requests from up to 1,200 students, Snyder said.

"We know that we have much more demand for on-campus housing than we have beds," Snyder said.

Some community colleges, however, are not ready to add residential halls.

Three years ago, Hudson Valley Community College in Troy studied whether housing should be added. It found that it would cost $20 million for a facility that would only serve 2 percent of its population.

There was no space on campus to build housing, and it was also cheaper for students to rent apartments in the community, said Dennis Kennedy, the college's executive director of communications and marketing.

"It's something that we did consider, but for those reason we decided not to move forward," he said.


Student housing on or near campus can come with growing pains, however.

At Tompkins Cortland, the college turned into a residential campus almost overnight, and with it came new responsibilities from having hundreds of students on campus at all hours.

The college had to develop a meal plan, keep the cafeteria open over the weekend and extended the hours of otherr facilities, such as the library and recreation center, Voorhees said.

The college went from having security staff to peace officers equipped with firearms.

Voorhees said the peace officers were a by-product of students living on campus, and not the result of incidents.

"There was a lot to learn about that, like having buildings open overnight, and needing new services. It needed a lot of adjustments," Voorhees said.

North Country Community College has three residential halls. Two opened in 1998 and the last around 2001.

Most of the college's experience has been popular, but some issues remain.

Diana Friedlander, director of the North Country Community College Association, a nonprofit group that owns the residential halls, said constant maintenance is needed to keep the residential halls in good shape.

"It takes a beating, the residence hall. Things have to be constantly upgraded," she said.

While a lack of funds have caused some repair projects to be delayed, Friedlander said the 96 beds will create enough revenue to pay for the student housing project over 30 years.

The living arrangement also helps the community, she said.

"I think we bring more money to the community by having it seven days a week because students will go to town and buy food. They will buy stuff for their dorm rooms," she said.


The Finger Lakes Community College is located just outside Canandaigua, a city in Ontario County with a population of 11,300.

The college has a 354-bed residential hall that opened in 2007. The demand, however, continues to grow, and now the college is exploring ways of adding more housing.

While officials say student housing has benefited the college, it has also had positive effects on the community.

"It's an asset for the college and community to have housing there," said Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni.

"Once you get more students here, that's going to provide more economic activity in general," she said.

Polimeni, who's also an adjunct professor at the college, said there was no resistance from the community when the housing was built, and she's heard none since it opened.

Finger Lakes has close to 7,000 students. Many of the students who live on campus come from outside the area.

Student housing has helped meet a demand from students who came to Finger Lakes because of certain programs, such as music recording, said Lenore Friend, a college spokeswoman.

Schenectady County Community College plans to add a 264-bed residential hall adjacent to the campus to attract more students from outside the area to signature programs that include alternative energy and nanotechnology.

Quintin Bullock, the college president, said students want affordable housing, making community colleges an appealing choice.

Community colleges have also improved its academic programs, which has drawn more students, he said.

Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie plans to open its new residence hall by the fall of 2012.

Judi Stokes, a college spokeswoman, said many students want to live on campus while attending Dutchess.

She said student housing will enhance the college experience for all students, including those who commute to college.

"Research shows that when a college has student housing, the whole student body benefits from that because you have more student activities, you have more opportunities for all of the students," she said.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. leetza
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    leetza - August 17, 2011 9:01 am
    reading this discussion board leads me to believe the majority of these bloggers have never even been to a college.
  2. matesr
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    matesr - August 16, 2011 4:58 pm
    So Mr. Henke, the real reason for the dorms is to stick taxpayers from other counties with the cost of operating a local community college which should be supported by local taxpayers! I'm not fooled! Incidentally, the law governing this was intended, in part, to prevent this.
  3. always thinking
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    always thinking - August 16, 2011 7:43 am
    BobHenke-Because the other countries are going broke too so the day is going to come when the cow dries up and the money stops coming from them.
  4. BobHenke
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    BobHenke - August 15, 2011 8:53 pm
    It is not side-stepping; it is doing what the law intended, i.e., not having the college adiminstration operating a reaidence. The way it is supposed to work is having a not-for-profit build and run the dorm--just what they are doing. The point people miss is that for every out of county resident that attends ACC, the counties are paid by the student's home county. In addition, even for our our residents, a commute from Hampton or Dresdon is more expensive for the student than staying at a residence hall. If we do something that can never cost the taxpayers any money, makes it easier for our residents and can lower the amount of tax money used to operate the college, why would we not want to do this?
  5. matesr
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    matesr - August 15, 2011 4:14 pm
    The article says that, like most community colleges, enrollment has exploded the past couple of years at SUNY Adirondack. So, they're planning to add dorms to attract even more students to an already overcrowded campus? Wouldn't it make more sense to add more classrooms, labs, full-time faculty, equipment and technology in order to better serve the currently enrolled students? Dorms must be the current ACC president's attempt to immortalize himself.
  6. leetza
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    leetza - August 15, 2011 9:42 am

    Plattsburgh co-op came because the students are there, and college towns are diverse, and progressive. The same thing will happen here. The new campus is here because Plattsburgh has been losing students to Sunny Adirondack for almost a decade.
    These rooms will not go unused. Sunny will do what it needs to do to fill them. Allot of sunny adirondack studants are from the ciy area, GF is much cheaper, safer, and cleaner then City schools. I shared classes with many students from the NYC area. Why do people around here believe the sky is falling every time someone wants to improve something?
  7. mongoo
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    mongoo - August 14, 2011 6:27 pm
    Who picks up the tab if they can't fill these dorms? The local countys? I hope not. How many student do we have that are coming from so far away that they would need a dorm room? I thought it was mostly from the Tri-county area. I'm all for improving ACC wherever we can but I don't to have to pay higher county taxes if it doesn't work.
  8. always thinking
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    always thinking - August 14, 2011 2:32 pm
    I just hope ACC doesn't overextend themselves. You get out of school and there are no jobs so schools may be dieing down.
  9. fxkane
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    fxkane - August 14, 2011 1:34 pm
    leetza said: "Finally! this has been a long time coming. Sunny Platsburgh has been losing students for years, and ACC has been gaining students. It makes sense, who would want to live in Platsburgh. This is exactly what Glens Falls needs. A little culture never hurt anyone...."

    Well, backward Plattsburgh happens to have a campus right here. It also has many things GF-Q doesn't have: it has a flourishing food co-op which reaches out to all classes; it has a college/university, the influence of which is felt throughout the area; it has Montreal, one of the top three cities in all of Canada; it has Burlington, Vt's first city and all the wonderful villages along Lake Champlain, and is less than an hour from Lake Placid.

    But to the subject, I think community colleges should be just that--and therefore should not have dorms as in SUNY Plattsburgh.

  10. leetza
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    leetza - August 14, 2011 11:09 am
    Finally! this has been a long time coming. Sunny Platsburgh has been losing students for years, and ACC has been gaining students. It makes sense, who would want to live in Platsburgh. This is exactly what Glens Falls needs. A little culture never hurt anyone. The big challenge will be keeping these students in the area.
    By the way! If laws are too ridged they will not adapt to current situations, we would all have slaves, and women would not be allowed to vote, and this country would never be what it is today. The beauty of our constitution is that is was designed to adapt to current opinions. I learned that in a school, it was taught to me by a teacher.
  11. PublicServant
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    PublicServant - August 14, 2011 10:34 am
    That law may not be for financial reasons it may be more for business reasons. Thankfully angry anonymous commentors do not get to vote NO! This community needs the next step for business. We have lost almost all factory jobs, the jobs that built the amazing city of Glens Falls and its surrounding areas. We need the influx of student generated business. Good luck, I hope it works.
  12. patcher
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    patcher - August 14, 2011 8:13 am
    Interesting statement found in this piece regarding the law as it applies to Community colleges and dorms. "Since community colleges are barred from owning residential halls, SUNY Adirondack took an approach that others have done to side-step the law". What kind of BS is this...either it's legal or it isn't, I vote NO!!! That's what got our country in the financial mess we're in now..."side stepping" the law, just as the state does with gambling. Why is it when "we the people" side step the law we go to jail???


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