COCC dorm plans garner support, dismay

Will attract students, money - but what of parking needs?

POSTED: 8:35 PM PST January 23, 2014    UPDATED: 9:50 AM PST January 24, 2014 
COCC Board approves new dorm plans
BEND, Ore -

Central Oregon Community College's Juniper Hall is home, sweet home for about 100 students attending the college.

But not for long.

"It's extremely difficult at this point in time for a student to come in and find adequate housing," COCC President Jim Middleton said Thursday.

College officials are prepared to spend more than $20 million on brand-new dormitory facilities.

"It's really awesome for the people who get to go be in them," said COCC student and Juniper Hall resident Michele Nornes. "I heard they're supposed to be really nice."

A total of 330 beds and modern facilities are to replace the decades old Juniper Residence Hall that's had problems.

"It's a bit challenging for handicapped accessibility. It was built in that age of split-level housing," Middleton said of the building, constructed in the '60s.

Middleton said the old dorm likely will be retired of its duties, and could even be demolished.

He said the new facilities will help COCC catch up to its growing demand as a destination college.

He said 14 percent of students are from out of the district, meaning they haven't lived in Central Oregon for at least two years.

Middleton said the college expects, and would like to see that number grow.

"More and more, the community colleges need out-of-area students, out-of-state students to really put your business plan together," Middleton said.

By helping students, the college is also helping itself.

"We believe we can go cash-positive in 12 to 15 years and actually have the facility be a revenue generator for the institution," Middleton said.

The college will pay for the dorm though its student residents, and also with summer overnight conferences and activities it plans to start hosting once the facilities are complete.

Middleton said dorm residents will pay more to live in the new residence hall. However, he said he doesn't yet know how much the prices will increase.

Some say paying more could be worth it.

"Now we're going to have our own kitchen, and be able to cook our own food," said  Juniper Hall resident Elisa Jones.

Jones said she wasn't quite sure if she'd be around for the new facility, but it's a possibility.

But some local students who have to commute to campus every day are not happy.

"As much as I like seeing them expand on the campus, personally, I was expecting a multiple-level parking garage," COCC student Samantha Bainbridge said.

Bainbridge said additional parking is the highest of her list of projects she would like to see the college take on.

Middleton said the new dorms will come with more parking, but those spaces will be for the residents.

College officials expect to break ground in April and open the dorm in the fall of 2015.