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In the Know: More student housing needed at Alexandria College

While we have a great resource in the Alexandria College Foundation Hall, its 149 beds have been full since the housing application opened.

EP In The Know
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By Michael Seymour, ATCC President

Unlike many colleges in the state and the nation, Alexandria Technical and Community College has maintained enrollments during the past couple years of uncertainty, and is poised to see an enrollment increase this fall. Our history of excellence as a college and community, and development of new academic and programmatic options, continues to make us a college of choice and a destination for many.

We are thankful to our community and industries for their continued partnership and support in these endeavors that have resulted in a growing student body. With growth comes new opportunities — and hurdles.

Our biggest hurdle right now is student housing. As fall semester nears, students and families continue to raise housing as their greatest concern. While we have a great resource in the Alexandria College Foundation Hall, its 149 beds have been full since the housing application opened. That also amounts to just 6% of full-time students attending Alexandria College. Off campus, housing opportunities in the community are few.

For years, Alexandria College has worked closely with local resorts to find housing for students, but it’s no secret that our area is slowly losing its resorts as well, and it is anticipated that trend will continue. Even the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce has fielded calls from parents of prospective Alexandria College students desperately trying to find housing for their students. Some students are in a scramble — nearly 100 students are currently on waitlists for affordable housing.

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While the college is doing everything it can to find housing for this fall’s entering class by working with families to connect them with resources, we know that this is not going to be a short-term issue. With our sights set on fulfilling the goals of our strategic plan by 2024, housing is of highest priority.

According to an independent housing study by Maxfield Research and Consulting, overall rental vacancies in Douglas County are already extremely low — 0.08% — indicating that the market is substantially under-supplied with rental options, especially for students. For comparison, 5% is considered market equilibrium for a balanced rental market. Maxfield has recommended a development concept to increase the type and format of apartment-style affordable housing to address the needs of current and future students.

In response, the Alexandria College Foundation is seeking to build an additional 120-150 bed student housing facility beginning this fall. It would be ready for occupancy for students by fall 2024. The project will feature one-, two-, and four-bedroom unit types. To make this student housing a reality, the foundation has requested funding support to underwrite the total construction costs, and has already raised $4.5 million in individual and industry support. A total estimated $6 million is needed due to rising costs of inflation and interest rates.

We are incredibly thankful to those who have already pledged their support and remain hopeful we will identify the remaining resources needed to construct a 150-bed unit. As executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce (Tara Bitzan) wrote in a letter of support, “This institution is an integral component to attracting future workforce to our community, which is desperately needed by local employers in almost every industry sector at this time.”

The college generates an economic impact of more than $114 million in the lakes area annually. This impact is felt by our retail outlets, grocery stores and other businesses frequented by our 3,700 students and employees. Our college graduates over 600 students a year fueling economic growth across our region. The greatest threat to the college’s ability to sustain and grow its operations is that students will have to go with their second- or third-choice colleges simply because they cannot find places to live here. In addition to the foundation’s request for funding a new student housing project, we ask for the community’s assistance in finding housing for students looking this fall. If you have rental properties available, please let us know by adding your listing to our Community Housing List online at alextech.edu/community-housing.

Michael Seymour is the president of the Alexandria Technical and Community College. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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