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Low student interest in leasing dorms has college concerned

Linda Satchwell
Staff Writer
6/30/2010


“Our cash flow is the most desperate ever, and here we are dipping into savings.”

Dr. Ron Taylor
President
Feather River College


    At the Feather River College board meeting June 24, president Dr. Ron Taylor admitted to a “difficult situation” regarding the struggling student residence halls. The board had previously allocated a $350,000 loan to the college foundation to install new roofs and improve dilapidated buildings.

    To try to offset costs, residence hall rents were increased $100 per month for the 2010-11 year, with an 11th month of rent added to the mix.   

Taylor said prospective students and their families had recently visited the college and, “It came to my attention, they were interested, and many signed up (to enroll), but they weren’t signing lease agreements.”

    Taylor said that three weeks ago, when he last received the numbers, signed lease agreements were running at only “12 percent of normal, or 22 students. Of this 12 percent, only 13 had actually paid. If they’re not coming … “ he trailed off.

     “We’re in new territory,” he added.

    He said he was in the position of trying to ascertain whether the dismal dorm stats mean that students “aren’t coming,” and/or whether the increased rent, combined with the shabby state of the dorms, and the equally shabby state of the economy was causing a “huge sticker shock.”

    It’s creating “a perfect storm,” Taylor said.

    Typically, he continued, dorms run near 100 percent occupancy in the fall, with a decline in the spring semester. Further, the college has an agreement with the foundation to pay residence costs when occupancy falls below 90 percent. This past spring, as in previous years, the college had to “do a bit of backfill” to the foundation.

    To compare to the number of leases signed and paid for thus far, 90 percent occupancy equals 136 students, meaning the college has 123 students to go for the coming year.

    To attempt to turn the tide, Taylor recommended allocating $220,000 from forest reserve funds to bring residence hall fees back to the 2009-10 rates, including no charge for an 11th month.

    If the problem isn’t just the residence halls, said Taylor, “if the students aren’t coming, it’s even worse.”

    Board member Leah West asked if this would definitely be a one-time-only fix. Taylor answered, “It had better be, or the future of the college is in danger.”

    Once the reduction is in place, he said, the administration and heads of departments would be calling potential students to “get the word out (regarding) reduced rent and improved facilities.”

    There was some discussion of the deplorable state in which students left rooms, which only added to mold problems from leaky roofs and other items of structural disrepair.

    In addition, a large number of students left at the end of the year without making their final rent payment.

    The foundation lost $40,000 in uncollected rents this past year.

    As part of the agreement to provide up to $220,000 to offset the rent reduction, Taylor said he expected the foundation to sign an agreement to keep the facilities in good repair.

    During the next six months, he also wants to see the college work closely with dorm staff to ensure the dorms are being used properly.

    Taylor lamented, “Our cash flow is the most desperate ever, and here we are dipping into savings.”
    
    

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