With enrollment down for the second consecutive semester, Allen County Community College trustees were asked Thursday to proceed with caution if they pursue another housing complex.
President John Masterson, speaking at the trustees’ regular monthly meeting, said the drop in enrollment may mean no more housing is necessary — at least for now.
“If we proceed, we better be dang sure we need it,” Masterson said of a proposed sixplex along White Boulevard.
The college is in the midst of asking the city for a zoning variance that would allow construction of the sixplex. Masterson said those plans would continue, but that the college may want to wait before beginning construction.
Before the 2010-11 academic year, ACCC had seen unprecedented enrollment growth, with higher student populations reported each year.
The larger enrollment prompted the college to build a third dormitory, Masterson Hall, “which we thought would solve our crowding concerns,” Masterson said.
But then the flood of 2007, which resulted in the condemnation and demolition of more than 120 houses in Iola, created another housing crunch because some of those homes had been used as off-campus housing for ACCC students, Masterson said.
That meant in recent years, the college had to scramble to find housing for some students, to the point that motel rooms were being rented.
The same held true at the start of this year.
“We had to find motels at the start of the year, but we were out of the motel business by Labor Day,” Masterson noted, as students either found alternative housing or dropped out altogether. Currently, the college dorms are at 94 percent occupancy, which is not unusual for the spring semester.
The college will meet with Iola’s Planning Commission on Thursday to discuss ACCC’s request for the zoning variance. The land on which the proposed sixplex would be built is zoned for single-family housing. The sixplex would be a multi-family unit.
At capacity, the proposed sixplex would house 24 students.
“I think we need to tap the brakes before committing ourselves to spend $600,000 or $700,000,” Masterson said.
Enrollment is down about 6 percent on the Iola campus.
Trustees also discussed approaching managers at Parkford Apartments to determine the feasibility of finding some housing units for ACCC students through a 10-month lease and checking on other residential properties in town.
Masterson’s comments came as trustees discussed rent for students staying at Horton and Winter halls. Trustees approved rent hikes of $50 per year for both dormitories, because of higher food costs.
TRUSTEES NOTED a pair of winter storms that blasted through the area over the past 10 days wreaked havoc on the college schedule.
Masterson noted that in the prior 18 years, ACCC had canceled classes once because of inclement weather. The two storms — which dumped a combined two feet of snow in the area on consecutive Tuesdays — shuttered the college for three days.
Steve Troxel, vice president for finance and operations, noted the heavy snow quickly overwhelmed the college’s snow removal equipment. ACCC hired O’Mara Trucking to clear snow from the Iola campus parking lot.
JULIA MARTIN was hired to become the college’s next Adult Education coordinator, replacing the retiring Vivian Copsey. April Henry was hired as the next director of the Allied Health program. The “interim” designation was removed from Anwar Perry’s position as head men’s basketball coachs, and Janelle Herder was hired as an administrative assistant and secretary in the financial aid office.
Trustees also rehired all ACCC administrators through the 2011-12 academic year.