Student residence a no-brainer
|By Alex Coop - Reporter | September 7, 2017|
The nervousness I felt upon entering my first year of post-secondary school in Toronto several years ago was quickly washed away thanks to a vibrant student residence on campus.
While the obligatory introductory games on day one deserved an eye roll or two, it was the natural interactions with students throughout the building that reinforced my decision to be there.
A day or two before classes began, I made friends – and genuine connections with people that I maintain today, connections I didn’t make in the classroom – so fast it made my head spin.
It’s an environment I would strongly encourage anyone entering college or university for the first time, to consider. If that option is available, of course.
And sadly, it’s not at the Haliburton School of Art and Design. The local campus relies on the generosity of residents to supply its students with a place to stay. And while that generosity has to be commended, it’s frankly astounding the school has managed to function, and grow, without reliable housing for its students.
There are 109 students attending the school this fall, and 49 listings on the campus’ current housing accommodation list for the fall and winter season.
Very few students at the school are local, and only a handful of the rental units can take more than one student.
There’s an obvious problem here. Students who can’t find housing have to back out. And as the school’s busiest time of the year approached, the mad scramble to find suitable housing for students was more evident than ever this summer, says the school’s student support services coordinator, Wendy Ladurantaye.
Several students, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of housing, had to walk away from an opportunity to attend school in Haliburton this fall.
That’s anywhere from $7,000-$10,000 the college is missing out on, per student. This also negatively affects our local economy. A student housing market analysis, conducted by Customer Relationship Index (CRi) in 2014, highlighted a resounding need for student housing. More than 80 per cent of summer and full-time students said they would rent suites at a dedicated student residence.
What’s holding us back? Money is the biggest factor. A lack of available land is a close second. The school’s dean Sandra Dupret says there’s interest from partners, locally and beyond the county’s borders, to have a dedicated student residence see the light of day.
But perhaps more importantly, they see how such a project could help a college that is currently stunted in its growth, increase its student population by about 30 to 40 per cent, a growth rate the current school’s infrastructure could handle, according to Dupret.
It’s unfortunate the board of directors at Fleming College haven’t expressed interest in taking on this project themselves. Perhaps after some number-crunching, they’ve determined pumping millions into a student residence with a relatively small student population isn’t worth it to them.
But it would be worth it to us. The college is unequivocally an essential part of our community. Boosting the college’s student population will also help Haliburton. As Dupret said to The Highlander on our front page story, opening up your home to strangers is a big deal. And while the school will greatly appreciate new additions to its listings, it’s a band-aid solution.
Let’s fully explore potential partnerships with local organizations, like the Haliburton County Development Corporation. If a design for a student residence is on the table, it’s time we start waving that around along with the school’s most recent housing market analysis and get serious about building. Students are coming from all over the world and spending their hard-earned money to study here. Let’s make sure they have a place to stay.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.