Washington State University Tri-Cities doesn't have a residence hall, but it's working to provide a similar experience to students.
The university has signed an agreement with The Timbers apartment complex on Stevens Drive in Richland to reserve 25 apartments next fall exclusively for WSU Tri-Cities students.
Lori Selby, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said any rental agreements will be between the apartment complex and students. However, the university will provide and pay the rent of a resident assistant, or RA, and cover the cost of any vacant apartments in the block.
Between 10 and 20 students already live in the complex, which is made up of 267 apartments.
University and apartment officials said the arrangement is aimed at creating an environment similar to dorm living, giving students more opportunities to network and develop relationships.
"It's a sense of community when you're around your peers," said Bailey O'Keath, a junior transfer student from Vancouver who lives there.
Selby said students at the Richland campus regularly have said in past surveys that they want a residential dorm option, which isn't economically feasible at this time. That led the university to look for a way to provide that kind of student living experience elsewhere in the community, she said.
Craig McLaughlin, who bought The Timbers with his wife in 2005, said he was glad to enter the partnership with the university. "We've always had WSU students here, and they've never been a problem at all," he said.
The Timbers is about three miles from WSU Tri-Cities and students can get there via Ben Franklin Transit.
Rents range from $635 a month for one bedroom to $785 a month for two bedrooms. For an additional deposit, renters get access to a clubhouse, theater room and game room.
The complex's current student population already makes use of them, heading to the clubhouse for study groups during finals and the WSU-themed game room to relax. Complex staff even will do renters' laundry, as long as they provide the quarters needed to run the washers and dryers, McLaughlin said.
O'Keath said she chose to attend WSU Tri-Cities to get a change of scenery and get away from the rain on the west side of the Cascades. She settled on the complex when looking for housing with her mother earlier this year.
"It's so safe and quiet and close to school," she said, adding she's able to focus on studying.
Students living at The Timbers are scattered among the complex's buildings but officials said they are working to concentrate students in one building to provide a sense of community.
The resident assistant will coordinate social and academic activities to further unite students.
The long-term plan is add more apartments to the university's reserved block as student interest increases, though Selby and McLaughlin said it's not known how that will look.
The university already is promoting the arrangement. The Timbers is featured in a series of recruitment cards being distributed to prospective students.
She said the complex is ideal for area students who want to be on their own but also for students, such as O'Keath, who are from outside the area but want a stable and secure living arrangement close to campus.
O'Keath said she's looking forward to seeing and meeting more students next year when the plan goes into effect. And she's in a good position to help convince students to move in, as she now works part time as a leasing agent for the complex.
"I've only met one other student here, but that's because I'm in my room studying all the time," she said.
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