Montco Community College strikes deal for student housing

Community colleges aren’t just for commuters anymore.

Montgomery County Community College announced Monday that it had struck a partnership to allow its students to live in the dorms on the campus of Gwynedd Mercy University.

The community college’s campus in Blue Bell is less than four miles from the Catholic university’s campus in Gwynedd Valley.

The partnership comes as the community college receives more requests for lodging, with its international enrollment swelling to 178 students from 51 countries, and more students from other areas of the state and country enrolling, said Dan Hanson, college spokesman.

It’s the only such arrangement between a community college and four-year university in Pennsylvania, said Danielle Gross, director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

In New Jersey, there are several examples of similar partnerships, one between Rowan University and Rowan College at Gloucester County that rolled out in Fall 2015 and another between Mercer County Community College and Rider University, which was recently announced.

In Pennsylvania, the only community college with residence halls on its campus is Northampton County, Gross said. Community College of Philadelphia announced last summer that it is pursuing a partnership with a developer, who would build a pair of residential apartment buildings beside the college’s Spring Garden Street campus to house students. The move could help the college attract more international students, who pay higher, out-of-county tuition rates.

Community College of Allegheny County, Butler County Community College and Luzerne County Community College also are exploring adding dorms, she said.

“We’re seeing more students interested in having an on-campus college living experience,” Gross said.

The agreement between Montgomery and Gwynedd Mercy is effective immediately. There is no limit on how many community college students can live at the university, Hanson said.

Community college students will pay the same room and board rates as Gwynedd Mercy students. That cost ranges from $5,570 per semester for housing and a 10-meal plan to $6,270 per semester for a 19-meal plan for the 2017-18 academic year.

The new partnership was prompted by requests the community college receives every year for housing from international students and those in the culinary arts programs, said Philip Needles, vice president for student services. Those students in the past have had to seek housing in the community at more costly prices, he said. Nearly 20 percent of the college’s 18,729 students are from outside Montgomery County.

The community college aims to increase enrollment with the new offering, Hanson said.

Gwynedd Mercy, which has 2,038 undergraduates, hopes that the agreement brings more international students on its campus and that many of them will remain at the university for their bachelor’s degree, said Cheryl Lynn Horsey, vice president for enrollment and student services at Gwynedd Mercy.

The university, she said, had a similar housing partnership with the community college from 2005 to 2007, but at that time, the university only offered housing for up to nine students in a house on campus. Under the new arrangement, students will live in the dorms with Gwynedd Mercy students. She estimates up to 20 Montgomery County students may be interested.

“Students who choose to take advantage of this option will have access to all the cocurricular programming offered to Gwynedd Mercy students, including on-campus events, service opportunities, and our very popular and growing intramural sports and recreation program,” Horsey said.