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* Partnership may bring student housing to Shoreline Community College

Xian.jpg

SCC President and Hou Baolin, a partner in David Lee & Partners, shake hands in Xian, China.

Shoreline Community College is one step closer to offering housing to students.

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President Lee Lambert has signed a memorandum of understanding that may result in a 400-bed student housing facility built on or near the campus. While excited about the potential, Lambert cautioned that the agreement is just a first step with many details to be clarified.

“This allows us to begin working on those details in a more meaningful way,” Lambert said Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. “What we do have is a willing partner who has agreed in principle to provide this valuable resource to the college and our students at no cost to the college.”

That willing partner is David Lee & Partners. Lee is a local businessman with ties to the telecommunications industry in the U.S. and China. If the project goes ahead, Lee’s company would be responsible for all design and construction costs. The college would be responsible for getting approval from the appropriate state agencies and assisting David Lee & Partners with local permitting and approval processes.

The college would also be responsible for amending the Master Development Plan, which is just now moving through the city of Shoreline’s review and approval processes. As currently submitted, that plan doesn’t include housing on the campus. Any potential off-campus housing project wouldn’t be included in the Master Development Plan, which focuses just on the campus.

“We’ve been thinking about housing for some time, but at the time we submitted the Master Development Plan, the state had no money for housing and we had no partners,” Lambert said. “The state still has no money, but we’ve found a partner who would like to make this project happen.”

One of the main items that would need additional scrutiny is just where such a project might take shape. The agreement talks about the possibility of an on-campus location with two levels of underground parking and built to LEED Gold environmental standards. Lambert said David Lee & Partners is committed to using cutting-edge green technologies in construction and that any on-campus location must address the already tight parking situation. However, the location could change, he said.

“There are several potential on-campus locations,” Lambert said. “Also, we have looked at off-campus locations before and we are open to looking again.”

With such significant details still to be decided, the project doesn’t yet have a price tag. However, construction of such a facility would bring needed jobs to build it, maintain it and serve the student residents. “This partner is interested in investing in higher education and his Shoreline community,” Lambert said. “Given today’s economy, we have to take a very close look at that.”

Shoreline draws students from across the state, the country and around the world and being able to offer housing could be an important factor in attracting them to the college. Shoreline now receives less than half of its operating funds from the state making the college more reliant on tuition, grants and contracts.

“We have a world-class automotive technology program, music technology and digital film programs that bring students from across the country; we also have the top biotechnology program in the state and our science, math and business students transfer to the top universities in the U.S.” Lambert said. “We have to meet the needs of our students and stay competitive. Unfortunately, the state is less and less able to help us so we are helping ourselves.”

If built, the project would also be of significant help in recruiting more international students. About 600 students from 34 countries attend Shoreline, a number that has bounced around by about 10 percent over recent years. Currently, Shoreline’s international students live in homestay arrangements or rent housing.

In 2010, Lambert announced a strategic initiative to grow that number to 1,000 in five years. While he has said that adding college housing isn’t necessarily required for program growth, it is very helpful.

“As a parent, whether you’re sending your child thousands of miles away and across an ocean or across town, you want the most assurances you can have for their safety,” Lambert said. “College housing adds to the peace of mind for those parents who are entrusting their children to us.”

Other community colleges who have added housing have seen their international-student numbers grow in recent years. Edmonds Community College officials added housing three years ago and their numbers have continued to rise as have those at Green River and Seattle Central community colleges.

Besides building the housing, David Lee & Partners is also offering Shoreline a base for student recruitment efforts in China. “They have a beautiful new building in Xian and have offered us space in that building,” Lambert said.

SCC/Jim Hills

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