Galveston College is wise to invest in student housing. It meets a market demand driven by an increasing number of students who want an “authentic” college experience without the sticker shock.
And it’s a start in an initiative to find affordable housing for students in a city where that’s getting more elusive all the time.
Building dormitories makes Galveston College competitive. And what’s good for the college is good for the island and county, where employers depend on a skilled and educated workforce supplied by community colleges.
Although community colleges are offering high-quality education at affordable tuition, they’re learning that a lot of students aren’t considering them because they couldn’t offer housing. With that realization comes a building boom of student housing at community colleges.
In 2000, 225 community colleges across the country offered dormitories on their campuses, according to the Community College Review, which cited a report in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. By 2010, that number had increased to 260 schools. Just two years later, in 2012, that number had risen sharply to 391 two-year institutions, according to the report.
“If the numbers are any indication, demand for campus housing at community colleges is on the rise,” according to the report.
As The Daily News reported Thursday, Galveston College has contracted with Sullivan Brothers Builders to oversee construction of a student housing project on the campus at the corner of 39th Street and Avenue R. Construction on the Abe & Annie Seibel Student Housing building will start this summer and will take about a year to complete, Sullivan Brothers Builders said.
Detailed plans for the housing still are under development and how many students the development will accommodate isn’t yet determined, Galveston College officials said. Previous plans, however, called for housing that would accommodate about 44 students.
The college will show plans for the project to the public after the College Board of Regents approves them on March 20, officials said.
College officials expect construction costs in the $3 million to $4 million range.
The investment, if it attracts more students, will yield many returns.
Galveston College plays a vital part in helping thousands of area students each year earn a credential or degree, transfer to a university or receive career training. But the value of such colleges extends to the greater community by helping to increase the earnings of its graduates, which benefits the overall local economy while providing skilled workers to local employers, according to the Association of American Colleges & Universities.
And workers who have attended community college tend to earn higher incomes than workers with no postsecondary education; the accumulated earnings of community college-educated workers added an estimated $800 billion to the national economy in 2012, according to the association.
Community colleges operate on a combination of tuition paid by students and appropriations from federal, state and local taxes, representing not just individual, but societal, investments, according to the association.
Locally, taxpayers should support Galveston College’s effort to stay competitive and invest in growth and keep up with industry trends. Everyone will reap the returns.
• Laura Elder