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Community colleges have housing options too

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Even though you may be staying local for your first two years of college, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience the typical college life of living in dorms, having roommates and experiencing the independence you feel when you move away from home. 


When you think of top community colleges, you may picture a local institution packed with commuters. That’s a stereotype you should quickly put out of your head since it’s becoming increasingly common for community colleges to offer perks like on-campus housing for its students. 


On-campus housing is nothing new for Middle Georgia College (www.mgc.edu), which has housing that dates back about 100 years, says Jennifer Brannon, registrar and director of admissions at Middle Georgia College.


Now, many other top community colleges are catching on and offering housing for students who want a typical college experience without making the move to a four-year school.


“Four-year schools aren’t for everyone,” Brannon says. “(Our students) want that smaller, personalized community that they can find their place in.” 


These aren’t your typical dorms

In the last five years, Middle Georgia has built six dorms, which are apartment-style, including four bedrooms (or a two-bedroom option with one bath), two baths, shared living space and a kitchenette. Plus, two of the oldest dorms were renovated to be single, suite-style dorms.


At Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., (www.monroecc.edu) more than 700 students are housed across four buildings, designed in suite style. Typically there are four-and five-person suites, with a shared kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, storage closet — all over 1,100 square feet. This new suite-style is more common in new development and students enjoy the privacy and spacious common areas. Plus, they’re packed with all the amenities a college student could ask for, from AC to wireless Internet and cable. The residence halls, like the ones at Jackson Community College (www.jccmi.edu) in South Central Michigan, also boast computer labs, laundry rooms and common spaces with comfy sofas, a fireplace and other fun perks like a pool table, air hockey and foosball. 


Shelitha Dickerson, director of Housing and Residence Life at Monroe Community College, says the on-campus housing also allows you to be more involved on campus. “Often times, what limits (student) involvement is their commute back and forth to campus, and having a program down the hall from where your room is, you’re more likely to get involved in what’s happening,” Dickerson says.


Living in the dorms comes with some requirements, though. Each school has their own eligibility standards, so be sure to check with the housing department. Despite the differences, one thing seems to be constant with all campus housing. You’re getting more than a room—you’re learning about life, responsibility and independence.


Life lessons

Living on campus helps develop leadership skills and creates more opportunities to be involved in the campus community. After all, the housing offers a community feeling, because you are surrounded by peers, professors and are near campus activities.


Mandy Huff, director of residence life at Jackson Community College, says when you live on campus you are getting to know people from different cultures and learning life lessons and new ways of interacting—that don’t involve mobile phones or computers. “A lot of our students don’t know how to confront others at all,” Huff says. “Conflict resolution is something we focus a lot on.”


And there’s always programming, organized by RAs and residence life staffers on topics such as budgeting, relationships, stress, spring cleaning and even cooking on a budget. “Hopefully we are preparing them to move forward to a bigger pond …” Huff says. “You need to make good decisions to move forward in life. All of those little things put together equal adult responsible living.”


What’s it going to cost me?

Every campus residence hall will have its own fee schedule and price tag. Here are just a few examples: At Middle Georgia the costs range from $1,900 per semester for a double room with a shared bathroom to $2,745 for an apartment style. Returning residents and new residents will pay $2,875 for a one-semester contract at JCC. Dickerson says the costs to live on MCC’s campus range from $3,250 for a single room per semester to $2,850 for a double room per semester (fall, spring, summer). 


Changing the landscape of community colleges

Cindy Allen, executive director of community relations at Jackson Community College, says they developed their first student housing residence about five years ago. And they did it because students said housing would be one way to offer a real college experience. Two years later a second phase was created.


“It’s added a lot to the campus experience,” Allen says. “We’re no longer considered a commuter college.” It’s attracting out-of-towners and students who want to move away from home but aren’t ready for that four-year school. Jackson Community College, a top community college serves a tri-county area; however, about 25 to 30 percent are from outside that area, Allen says. 


“Those students would not be coming here if we didn’t have housing,” she says. “It definitely changed the dynamics of what’s going on here on campus but in a good way.” 


Enid Arbelo Bryant is the Editor in Chief of NextStepU Magazine (www.NextStepU.com).


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