BERLIN — Working with U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster, White Mountains Community College is again looking at establishing a dormitory at the college.
College President Matt Wood said the plan being studied calls for three small dormitory buildings, providing housing for a total of 96 students and four staff members. Students would live in small units or apartments, each with kitchen facilities. The complex would be located on college land across Route 16 from the main college building.
A dormitory has been a long-time wish for White Mountains Community College. In 2001, legislation was introduced to design a student residential hall and wellness center. The issue was raised again in 2005 and a private proposal to convert the old Bartlett School into a dormitory was also explored. Financing the dormitory has been a prime roadblock given the need to keep dormitory rental rates competitive with the local rental market.
This time the college is looking at funding made available as a result of an amendment Kuster proposed to the 2014 Farm Bill. The USDA-Rural Development’s Rural Community Coordinated Strategy directs the USDA-RD to leverage its existing program to support and work with rural community colleges. For the first time, Rural Development loans and grants are available to the state’s community colleges with the amount determined by the project. Kuster orchestrated the $1.6 million low-interest loan to allow the Community College System of New Hampshire to purchase the former campus of Lebanon College to expand River Valley Community College.
Wood said he expects to continue studying the project into the winter. He said officials want to make sure the financials are set because the project will probably require a long-term loan agreement. He said there will be no capital money from the state so rental fees will have to cover costs. Wood said he expects an independent analysis to be performed to make sure the project is viable. If the numbers work, he would like to see construction underway within two years.
“I’m thrilled that the community college collaboration that I proposed in the Farm Bill could potentially result in another exciting project for New Hampshire,” Kuster said. “This could help make higher education more accessible for students in the North Country and beyond. This project could also create a big boost for the North Country economy by connecting employers and employees through important workforce development partnerships,” she said