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SUNY Adirondack housing

A rendering of the proposed student housing which SUNY Adirondack is looking into constructing.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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