By Patrick McArdle
The College of St. Joseph acquired an apartment building last week that will be used to add more than 100 beds as dormitory space for students.
Highland Meadows Apartments, a two-building complex on Campbell Road, has 32 units of housing less than a mile from the college’s main campus on Clement Road. The funding for the acquisition was provided through the federal Rural Development Loan program.
CSJ President Lawrence Jensen said three units of the housing were empty, three were already being rented by CSJ, and the rest would be converted to student housing for upperclassmen when existing tenants moved out.
Current residents of Highland Meadows have been notified about the change of ownership.
“We are very aware that there are tenants there who have lived there a long time,” Jensen said. “We don’t want to cause this to be unnecessarily disruptive or painful. We’re going to do everything we can to work with them to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
College officials are expecting the building will house a mix of students and nonstudents for some time, he said.
The college is adding services to support the new student housing. CSJ will provide a shuttle service for students and additional residence life and public safety staff will be hired to monitor the buildings.
The college has two existing residence halls, Medaille Hall and Roncalli Hall. The newer hall, Medaille, was added in 1969, according to the college’s website. CSJ also has a cottage that can house up to eight students.
In an interview last month, Jensen, who recently went from interim college president to an open-ended term, discussed what he saw as the college’s future needs. One of the goals he expressed was to increase the number of students, which will require some infrastructure support.
Jensen said the college had the classroom facilities it needed. But he said with the success of programs that assist students who had been in Vermont’s foster care system, and the Provider Program, which offers reduced tuition for qualified students, he hoped to work on expanding the school’s dormitory capacity.
In recent years, CSJ has met those needs by using overflow housing in apartments and local hotels.
With the acquisition of Highland Meadows, Jensen said the college’s need for more student housing will be met “quite adequately” for the near term.
He said he appreciated the help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in making the project affordable.
Jon-Michael Muise, acting USDA state director, said in a statement the department has a commitment to increasing economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for rural communities.
“Ensuring that our higher-education facilities have the ability to provide housing to meet the demands of increased enrollment is critical for economic development in Vermont,” he said. “We are proud to invest in the College of St. Joseph as it grows and expands its ability to provide a quality education and a place to call home for their students.”
Jensen declined to give the purchase price of the building. Staff at the city clerk’s office in Rutland said last week the property transfer had not yet been received.
Jensen said the building is likely to be renamed, possibly in honor of a major donor to CSJ. Housing in the building is expected to be available as soon as the 2017-18 school year that starts this fall.
He said the buildings were in good condition, but he didn’t know if they would need any additional technology infrastructure for students to access high-speed internet services.
CSJ’s current school year is at its end, with commencement held last Saturday.