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SPC to review cost of dorms

College officials order a feasibility study for dorms proposed at either the Seminole or Tarpon Springs campus or another off-campus site.

By ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS
Published March 24, 2005


St. Petersburg College is looking into building dormitories at or near two of its campuses.

State law loosely prohibits community colleges from building their own dorms, but SPC officials say the school might be exempt because it technically is a four-year college, even though a majority of degrees awarded are two-year associate's degrees.

The proposed dorms would be built at either the Seminole or Tarpon Springs campuses or perhaps on property near the Veterans Administration Center at Bay Pines. All are close to or on campuses where SPC offers four-year degrees.

A $5,000 feasibility study will seek to determine where the dorms could be placed, and how much they would cost.

"We don't need permission from the Legislature," said Susan Reiter, director of facilities and planning for SPC. "The question was asked: Should we be thinking about this, and should we be moving in this direction?"

The move comes a week before the University of South Florida St. Petersburg breaks ground on its first residence hall. USF has said dorms will help attract more students from across the state.

Both USF and SPC are working to increase student satisfaction. USF hopes its residence hall attracts students from Jacksonville and Miami. SPC wants to put its athletes, many of whom live in groups at apartment complexes, in better and closer housing. Dorms also could be affordable alternatives to international and married students, officials said.

USF St. Petersburg recruiters plan to use their multistoried residence hall as a selling point in a drive to double the student population. That building, which will house 354 students, is set to open the fall of 2006.

USF officials were on vacation and did not comment on SPC's decision to consider dormitories. However, community leaders publicly have questioned the apparent competition between the two schools.

SPC president Carl Kuttler says such allegations aren't true. SPC's potential dorms will help lower-income students deal with rising rents in St. Petersburg, he said, adding SPC is merely "investigating" the value of student housing.

Dorms also might be a consideration for many students attending the dental school and a college of pharmacy operated by the University of Florida at SPC as part of SPC's University Partnership program.

"What we're saying is we want to look at what the options are," Kuttler said.

It's not unusual for a community college to build a dorm, though it doesn't often occur in an urban area, said George Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges.

It's a growing trend, Boggs said. Nearly 25 percent of community colleges now have dorms.

In Florida, only Chipola College has dorms - but they were grandfathered in before state laws were enacted. At 10 other Florida community colleges, the fundraising arms - the college foundations - raised money to purchase student housing in the name of the foundations, Kuttler said.

"These are mostly in the rural areas and in small towns," Boggs said. "In rural areas people have to travel longer distances to get to college."

SPC dorms would include 50 beds, laundry and perhaps some sort of food service.

SPC has 1,250 bachelor's-degree-seeking students and 2,947 students seeking bachelor's or master's degrees through the college's partnerships with larger, four-year universities. SPC has 30,551 total students.

Boggs said SPC's desire to expand is normal, but could cause friction with other schools.

"It could put them in a more competitive position to attract more students from throughout the state," Boggs said. "I think it's kind of a natural process to make it more convenient to students and to possibly attract international students."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Adrienne Samuels can be reached at 445-4157 or samuels@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 24, 2005, 12:16:15]


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