CNCC officials consider plans for residence housing on Craig campus | CraigDailyPress.com

CNCC officials consider plans for residence housing on Craig campus

Focus groups to gauge student opinion about housing slated to begin this week

Michael Neary

CNCC Vice President Janell Oberlander, left, and Director of Student Support Jennifer Holloway are among the college officials who are discussing an effort to build student housing.

— Staff members at Colorado Northwestern Community College are gathering feedback about a plan to build residence housing on the college's Craig campus.

Right now, college officials are considering a 34-bed facility — with two beds set aside for residence life staff members — that may open, at the earliest, in the fall of 2017.

College Vice President Janell Oberlander said the college has formed a committee, populated with college officials and other community members, to discuss the project. She said members are considering a larger-capacity building, as well as the 34-bed size.

Jennifer Holloway, director of student support at the college, is planning to lead focus groups to find out what students think about residence housing, with the first meeting occurring at noon this Wednesday in the college's garage space — converted to a meeting place — next to the Salon & Spa.

"We want to ask them what they would like to see in housing," Holloway said. "Do they think the housing is a good thing for us to pursue? What other campus support systems would they like with the housing?"

Officials say that discussion of residence housing at the Craig campus has been going on since the campus opened in 2011. But College President Russell George said faculty growth, along with the maturation of academic programs, has made the creation of student housing more feasible now than it was before.

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"We can grow more students without having to expand our staff," he said.

The college is already leasing 11 units at Ridgeview West Apartments, in Craig, with space for 23 students. Holloway said students pay $1,700 per semester for the furnished apartments, equipped with washers and dryers and utilities, along with cable and Internet service. Students share kitchens and bathrooms.

Holloway said startup costs for those apartments — such as cable and utility installation — created more expense than anticipated, but she also noted strong student demand for the units.

"I've had to turn people away," she said.

That demand has bolstered officials’ confidence that an on-campus residence building can succeed. They also note advantages to having students all in one space, rather than dispersed throughout an apartment building.

"We can do more programming with (students)," Oberlander said. "We can insert more staff, and we can work with students more developmentally."

The Rangely campus, she said, harbors five student residence buildings.

Creation of new athletic teams at the college's Craig campus could also fuel the demand for housing.

"Should we get to a point where we can bring athletics to our campus, that would certainly give us a bigger student population to fill the housing," Oberlander said.

But student demand for housing, she added, exists outside of athletics.

"I think we'd be (considering a residence building) anyway, just based on what we found out with the apartment experiment," Oberlander said.

George noted the possibility of creating a senior center on college grounds — in partnership with other community members — and then letting the two facilities share a cafeteria. Right now the Senior Social Center in Craig is located in CNCC's Bell Tower Building, at 50 College Drive.

Holloway and Oberlander pondered the benefits of placing student housing and a senior center side by side.

"The inter-generational aspect would be huge," Holloway said.

George noted that a strict commuter model works better for a college in a large community than for a college in a small one. In a small community, he explained, it's important to serve the local population as exhaustively as possible — but it’s also vital, he said, to look to the outside. He noted that the "beauty of the surrounding area," could serve as a powerful draw to prospective out-of-town students.

"To really grow and meet the promise that this place has," George said, "you've got to start bringing in people who can't go home for supper."