BY MICHAEL KITCH LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "This is not a dormitory," said Larissa Baia as she opened the door to a spacious carpeted and furnished apartment with a patio offering a view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains beyond. "We think it's a game changer," she added.
Baia, vice president of student services at Lakes Region Community College, explained that the college has leased a four-story apartment building with 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom units at the foot of Provencal Road, about a mile northwest of the campus, to provide housing for its students. The building is one of a pair built by Dick Anagnost, a prominent developer from Manchester.
Only NHTI, Concord's Community College, among the seven colleges of the community college system, offers housing, but in dormitories not apartments.
"This makes us unique," said Scott Kalicki, president of the college. "It gives us a leg up."
Baia explained that access to the apartments will be limited to students, who will gain entry not only to the building itself but also to their particular floor with their student identification cards. Nick Walton, the residence director who lives in a ground-floor unit, said all guests must be accompanied by a student and register with a security officer on entering the building. Three security cameras are mounted on each floor and at least one resident assistant will be housed on the three upper stories. Security, Baia stressed, is a high priority.
The units on the ground floor will be reserved for short stays, Baia said, explaining that students in the marine and automotive technology programs may be on the campus for a week or even a day or two. The remainder of the building will house students enrolled for the semester. Lounges and study rooms provide communal spaces for residents and there are laundries on the second and fourth floors.
The building is separated from the college by a woodland crossed by an unimproved pathway. Baia said that students have been directed not to use the path, but instead to drive to the campus. However, she said that the college intends to improve and light the pathway to provide safe and secure passage between the apartments and the campus.
"It would be an eight minute walk," she said.
Baia said that the apartments are priced to reflect the cost of comparable housing at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Keene State College. The cost to a student sharing an apartment, which includes all utilities including Internet access, is $3,600 for a semester of 15 weeks, while a student with a single unit would pay $3,950. Student loans can be applied to the cost of housing.
Walton said he is responsible for matching and pairing those students seeking shared housing.
"It's difficult to do just from paperwork," he conceded, "but we do our best to honor their requests."
He said that some 20 students are currently living in the building and that number is expected to increase at least fivefold with enrollment for the fall semester in September. Altogether, there is capacity for 200 students.
Community colleges, Baia said, have long been perceived as "commuter schools," but more students are seeking other options.
"They want the college experience of living and learning," she continued. "We can offer that."
Walton agreed, remarking that "they are snagging applications as soon as they see the building."
She anticipated the housing would enhance the attraction of college's fire science, marine technology and automotive technology programs, which draw students from Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.
"The apartments will be a huge thing for these programs," she said.
Kalicki said that the housing option positions the college to recruit "way outside the boundaries of our region to the farther reaches of the state," especially for a program like fire science, which is not only the only one of its kind in the state but also the closest for students from neighboring states. At the same time, he said that a resident student population will also have positive effects on the city.
Kalicki said that Anagnost has offered the college an opportunity to lease the other building at the site, which would double its capacity for residential students to 400.
"We're not ready to go there yet," he said, "but we'll see how this goes. It's a great opportunity for the college and the city."
Lakes Region Community College offers two bedroom apartment units for their students. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Spacious living room / kitchen area in a two bedroom apartment unit available for students at Lakes Region Community College. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
A double bedroom within a two bedroom apartment unit with walk-in closet offers comfortable living space for students at Lakes Region Community College. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)