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Community college dorms now an option

Unlikely at GCC

GREENFIELD — Dorm life is already a big part of the University of Massachusetts and state university experience — but will it someday become part of the community college one, too?

The state’s 15 community colleges now have the green light to pursue construction plans for on-campus residential halls — after the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved a policy change last week.

While the option is open, it’s unlikely there will be an immediate rush of community college dorm proposals to the state. Greenfield Community College isn’t pursuing any dorm plans, said President Robert Pura.

Gardner’s Mount Wachusett Community College is the only school of the 15 actively considering a student housing plan, according to a press release issued by the state. And it hasn’t been a high priority item among community college presidents, said Pura.

Still, the GCC president applauded the policy change because it gives the local schools the option to consider plans in the years to come.

About eight to 10 years ago, GCC had explored the idea of dorms for single parents with a child care center, said Pura.

But the recession changed the school’s priorities, he said. While the local demand for housing is not high, there is still a high demand for on-campus child care services — and Pura said the college is actively focused on this mission.

“I would not rule (future dorms at GCC) out as a possibility, but I do not see it as a probability,” he said.

According to the release issued by the state, 22 percent of community colleges in the country offer student housing — mostly at medium-sized institutions located in rural areas. Massachusetts is now the 40th state to allow it, although the overall percentage of community college students housed in residence halls is relatively small, the state said.

“I want to stress that this is not a decision to initiate a program of student housing construction at community colleges,” said state higher education Commissioner Richard Freeland, in a prepared statement. “Rather, this is a vote to be prepared to consider proposals in cases where they may enhance the educational experience of our students.”

On-campus housing may have a positive impact on academic achievement and graduation rates, state officials said in the release.

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