Thousands attending San Mateo County Community College District schools want student housing built on local campuses, according to a survey going before the school board.
Trustees will weigh Thursday, Sept. 3, a report from The Scion Group, which claims a significant amount of those enrolled in the district would be interested in student housing — particularly on the College of San Mateo campus.
The board approached the issue last summer, when officials examined opportunities to address concerns among the student body regarding the cost of living locally. Former chancellor Ron Galatolo favored student housing, suggesting it is preferable to proposed legislation allowing students to stay in their cars overnight on parking lots. Officials at the time expressed some interest in the proposal, while preferring to advance deliberately. The district has about 100 housing units available to district teachers spread throughout its three campuses.
No decision is slated to be made at the meeting, but officials will review the report which tracks student interest in student housing, while also laying out a variety of potential financing strategies for building the facilities.
The most popular place to build student housing is at the College of San Mateo, where the survey showed demand for roughly 2,000 beds among single students and those with families, according to the report. Interest levels increased even further when the survey suggested the housing would be listed at below-market rates, according to the responses from 2,551 students.
“Based on survey data, 74% of students across the district expressed some level of willingness … to live on campus if housing was located at CSM compared to Skyline (60%) and Cañada (56%),” said the report.
The desire to live on campus is driven by the dearth of affordable housing locally, as well as long commutes to campuses, said the report, which suggested the availability of housing could attract new students as well.
“Nearly all students believed that housing is important for recruiting and retaining future students,” said the survey, which also suggested 40% of students had considered leaving school due to the cost of living.
Should officials ultimately pursue student housing, the survey report suggested a public and private partnership would likely be the most sensible approach.
“Compared to self-funded projects and private developer projects, the [private-public partnership] delivery option offers a ‘middle-ground’ with risk, cost and control,” said the report.
The Scion Group is North America’s largest private student housing company, according to the website, which claims it owns and operates over 58,000 beds across 38 states plus Mexico and Canada.
Noting the company’s stake in the student housing industry, San Mateo resident Maxine Terner questioned the neutrality of Scion’s report. A frequent critic of the district’s spending on facilities, Terner urged officials in an email to hold off on any potential pursuit of the initiative, citing the uncertainty brought by the pandemic.
For his part, district Vice Chancellor Mitch Bailey defended the decision to hire The Scion Group, noting the company has helped many other districts throughout the Bay Area examine the feasibility of building student housing.
Furthermore, he noted officials are not bound to the proposal and instead are only considering the issue.
“No decisions on building student housing have been made and no recommendations have been made about proceeding with any potential development. This is the information gathering and sharing phase of the process,” he said in an email.
The San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Visit https://smccd.zoom.us/j/95302220282 to join, or call (669) 900-9128 and enter 953 0222 0282.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105