Columbia Basin College soon will be able to offer its students a place to live in addition to a place to learn, having recently purchased nearby land for campus housing.
Typical of CBC leadership, administrators have found a way to respond to student needs. President Rich Cummins and his team have a solid track record of expanding the scope of what services and programs the college provides, and adding student housing is yet another example.
A student survey near the end of last year showed there was a considerable amount of “pent-up interest” for on-campus housing, according to a draft version of the report.
Thirty-five percent of freshmen and 38 percent of sophomores surveyed said they would prefer to live either in a residence hall or apartment on campus. Student athletes also showed a significant interest in student housing, with 60 percent of the more than 80 surveyed saying they wanted to live close to campus.
State law prohibits community and technical colleges from operating student housing, but CBC has managed a way around that obstacle.
Last week, the Pasco City Council approved the sale of just under 5 acres to the college, at Argent Road and 20th Avenue. Now, the college will form a public-private partnership with a developer to build and run the student apartments, which are expected to have 378 units.
The first 100 or so units should be available for students beginning in fall 2017. This is an exciting endeavor, and likely will help attract students from outside the area who will now have an easier time finding a place to live in the Tri-Cities.
Community colleges are typically commuter schools, and most students live at home with parents while attending CBC. But the structure of higher education is changing, and two-year schools are increasingly offering more bachelor’s degrees and certifications in specialized areas — like CBC’s cybersecurity or health care administration programs.
For those students who want to live independently, or who have decided to move to the area to enroll at CBC, finding adequate housing can be difficult. Rental occupancy rates are about 98 percent in the Tri-Cities, so building apartments close to campus will provide a much needed option.
CBC student leaders also have said they want a more dynamic campus community, and college housing would help with that, making it easier for students to attend events — especially those in the evening.
Of course, making student housing affordable will be a challenge, and we hope that CBC uses what leverage it has to help ensure the new units are within financial reach of students paying for school.
It won’t do any good to build apartments near the college if students can’t afford to live there.
CBC officials are fortunate they had the decision-making authority to move quickly on the project.
Officials at Washington State University Tri-Cities also have been looking to provide student housing at its Richland campus, but there are more bureaucratic layers involved. WSU leaders were close to making a deal with a Kennewick developer last fall, however, it did not work out.
Details have yet to be revealed, but we understand they are almost ready to make a new announcement on the issue.
CBC’s apartment plans would complement any potential housing project at WSU Tri-Cities, Cummins said, and he thinks providing students a place to live at both schools would benefit the entire Tri-City higher education community.
Student housing at CBC will be a great addition to the college, and we are glad the project seems to be moving along already.