Lakeland plans to boost student retention, enrollment and revenue by offering student housing on campus starting in August 2020.
Studies show that students who live on campus are more engaged and therefore more likely to complete their college education, leading to higher graduation rates. About 25 percent of two-year colleges in the U.S. now offer on-campus housing, according to data from the American Association of Community Colleges.
The college's board of trustees voted Dec. 6 to enter into agreements with Beyond Owners Group, Inc., a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation, to assist in the development and financing of the project. The board is expected to vote on the final agreement at its February 2019 meeting.
No college funds or taxpayer dollars will be used to build or operate Lakeland's student housing. As the nonprofit partner, Beyond Owners Group will pay to lease a small portion of campus grounds, and annual excess cash flows will be given to the college.
"Students living on campus have higher grade point averages and spend more time preparing for class, according to national research," said Lakeland President Morris W. Beverage Jr. "This higher academic performance, along with increased campus engagement and easy access to support services, increases their likelihood of persisting in their studies and graduating."
College officials also hope student housing will appeal to recent high school graduates who want to save money without sacrificing the traditional college experience. Lakeland's tuition is one-third the cost of public four-year colleges and universities.
As part of the college's facilities master plan, student housing will be located on the northeastern portion of the campus. The five story, 131,000-square-foot residence hall will offer 350 beds in primarily two and four-bedroom apartments with separate bedrooms and shared living spaces and bathrooms. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2019 and be completed by August 2020. Beyond Owners Group will work with the college to determine eligibility and housing policies.
In June 2016, Lakeland engaged Brailsford & Dunlavey to conduct a market study of student demand for on-campus housing. The study identified demand for more than 500 beds in a combination of suite and apartment style housing.
Under Ohio law, community colleges cannot directly own or operate on-campus student housing. They may enter an agreement with a nonprofit (501c3) real estate foundation to enter a long-term ground lease with the college and work directly with a student housing outside developer and operator to build and fully manage the facility.
After an extensive request for qualifications and proposals process led by Rieth Jones Advisors, Lakeland selected Signet Real Estate Group as its preferred development partner. In September 2018, Lakeland's board of trustees authorized a pre-development agreement for Signet to work closely with the college and the independent nonprofit to design, build, finance, operate and maintain student housing on campus.