Published on 2014/02/11

Helping Bring Adult Students to the Mountain

AUDIO | Helping Bring Adult Students to the Mountain
Campus housing is not just a concern for 18 to 22-year-olds; adult students are looking to live closer to their college campuses as well.

The following interview is with Lorraine Prinsky, a trustee and past-president of the Coast Community College District (CCCD). One of the commuter colleges in the CCCD, Orange Coast College (OCC), recently acquired a plot of land to create campus housing. In this interview, Prinsky discusses the issue of campus housing for non-traditional students and shares her thoughts on how such a move will impact the college’s commuter status and its completion rates.

1. Why is on-campus housing a critical issue for commuter colleges?

It’s actually a growing trend. There are over 300 community colleges that offer housing throughout the United States. So OCC is not the first, [though] it may be locally in Southern California. It is a growing trend; more and more students want to live either on-campus or close to campus.

2. Looking specifically at non-traditional students, how would available campus housing support their retention and success?

I’m not really sure what you mean by non-traditional students; it just seems like so many of our students might be considered non-traditional. The fact is that the average student age in community colleges is 28. …

We’re aware that many of the students … it may even be a majority, something like 60-plus percent, of our students actually live outside of the Coast Community College District boundaries. So we’ve done surveys, we’ve had some consultants do some work for us, and we know there is an overwhelming need and interest for local affordable housing for students and that’s what we’re trying to do.

3. Would this housing be dormitory-style, as we see on traditional campuses, or would it be subdivided housing?

We’re still working on figuring this out. We’re doing more surveys, more marketing studies, and we may have a mixture of housing types to accommodate all kinds of different needs and students. This is something we still don’t know yet. We’ve been talking about this for years. Our district received funding from a major bond that was passed by our district residents last November and it’s going to take at least a couple more years of studying and planning and meeting with the city of Costa Mesa; finding out whether we need to get some zoning changes and whatever else we need to do legally.

We’re still working on this and working on figuring out what the best mix would be for our students.

4. Do you think introducing on-campus housing will change the commuter-geared nature of the college?

This is really hard to say. The fact is that an overwhelming number of our students work and go to school and are not totally full-time. But, one of the things we’re trying to do with a lot of changes that are coming — and the community colleges in general in California that we’re applying at OCC and the other colleges in our district — is working on student success and trying to figure out what is best to get students to complete. … That’s been one of the challenges in community colleges.

I think part of our work in our students’ success initiatives may also be to bring students closer, be more accessible and provide more affordable housing so that students can focus on their education.

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Readers Comments

Yvonne Laperriere 2014/02/11 at 2:26 pm

On-campus housing for the non-traditional/adult student population is a great option. Living on campus helps students feel more connected to their institution and cultivates a better sense of community. And I would think apartment-style housing — perhaps with two students sharing a suite — would be preferred to the traditional dorm experience.

At one campus, I’ve seen adult student housing that was dorm style, but gave students a full kitchen to use for preparing meals, and private bathrooms. The traditional-aged student wants to be “spoon fed,” in a sense, and might appreciate having a cafeteria with ready-made food, but I’m venturing a guess that adults prefer more independence. Their on-campus housing should imitate their experience living on their own.

Tyrese Banner 2014/02/12 at 1:03 pm

Often, a student’s proximity to campus impacts whether he or she feels connected, welcomed and able to participate in institutional activities. Schools that have large commuter populations have often cited having low school spirit and little school affinity among alumni. In many cases, those reporting feeling disengaged are adults, who tend to form the majority of the commuter population. Offering on-campus housing for this group is a great first step to address this issue. However, institutions need to consider how to bring the larger non-traditional student population, among which there will be many who don’t access on-campus housing, into the mix.

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