tampabay.com

HCC students get new place like home

That's right, students now have an option to live on campus, rare for community colleges.

By ELISABETH DYER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 4, 2008


TAMPA - When more than 100 students moved in to Hawks Landing on Wednesday, they became the first ever on-campus residents of Hillsborough Community College.

The freshly painted apartment complex on the Dale Mabry campus of Hillsborough Community College marks a new direction for the community college, the fifth largest in Florida, which typically draws local commuter students.

Kurt Wadsworth Jr., a Tampa native, moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor. It's cheaper than his last apartment and much nicer he said.

"I wanted to have the traditional college experience," said Wadsworth, 21, a first-year student majoring in computer engineering.

His room comes with support services such as advising and educational lectures, a computer lab, clubhouse with game room, fitness center and a pool.

Community colleges expect more students to apply following budget cuts this year that have forced Florida universities to cap enrollment.

Will Holcombe, chancellor of the Florida Community College system, said HCC's new housing is the largest of the six operating at two-year schools in the state.

Hawks Landing has 420 beds in 120 fully furnished units.

The $21.1-million complex is owned and managed by Atlanta's Place Properties, which operates about 35 student apartments throughout the Southeast.

To get an apartment, students must pass a credit check and enroll for at least six credit hours, said college spokesman John Huerta. The apartments are in response to a student survey that revealed a need for affordable, convenient housing. Huerta expects an added bonus will be camaraderie.

It sounds like dorms.

But Florida law prohibits community colleges from using state money for dormitories.

The land under the HCC complex is owned by the college and leased to the school's foundation for $1 a year.

The foundation has a 30-year agreement with Place Properties, which uses revenue from student leases for operating costs and to repay debt.

This is Place Properties' first complex in Florida and its first on a community college campus.

"It's clearly going to happen more," said Cecil Phillips, chief executive of the company. "Community college students, or customers, are demanding more. They're expecting more of the college experience."

Other community colleges are watching to see how well this one performs.

St. Petersburg College, which offers two-year and four-year degrees, is considering campus housing.

"Many of our students are older and come back to school full time. They need affordable housing," said Amelia Carey, a school spokeswoman.

On Thursday at Hawks Place, Travis Sedler toured a four bedroom apartment with his mom. The 18-year-old mass communications student lives at home in Citrus Park.

His mom likes the idea of having him close in case of an emergency. "This is a big step toward independence," said Leticia Sedler.

The TV and computer would go there," he pointed to a built-in desk and shelves and then the wall behind the bed. "Maybe this wall, I'll paint red."

"I'm dying for my independence."

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or 813 226-3321.

FAST FACTS

Want to rent?

-Students can check out floor plans at Hawks Landing and find roommate(s) at hccstudenthousing.com. The apartments are on HCC's Dale Mabry campus.

-Apartments range from $505 monthly for four roommates to $777 monthly for a one-bedroom overlooking the pool. Rent includes water, sewer, electricity, Internet and cable. All are furnished and include microwaves, washers and dryers. The complex has a computer lab, clubhouse with game room, fitness center and pool.