As Brock University continues to attract record numbers of students, it is looking to partner with private-sector developers to build more student residences close to campus and away from residential neighbourhoods.
In a report to the University’s Board of Trustees, President Gervan Fearon said Brock needs to find a cost-effective mechanism to provide more residences for students who do not want to live off-campus.
To this end, Brock is developing a plan where third-party companies may partner with the University to build residence buildings near the main campus or in downtown St. Catharines near Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
Brock is experiencing record enrolment for a third-consecutive year along with increasing academic admission averages. Total enrolment this fall is nearly 19,800 students and the incoming first-year class is Brock’s largest ever. There’s even a 13 per cent jump in those who made Brock the No. 1 choice on their Ontario university application form.
The vast majority of students come from beyond the Niagara region, notably the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and do not have the option of commuting to class from home.
As at most Ontario universities, the demand for residences at Brock outstrips the supply. Brock has around 2,400 fully-booked residence beds, and will begin construction this fall on a new 300-bed residence building on campus. There is a significant waiting list for students wanting to live on campus, and Fearon said there are more living off-campus who would opt to stay in a student residence close to Brock.
“With the constant need for new teaching and research facilities, or just maintaining existing assets, universities are challenged to free up funding to start major construction projects for residences,” he said. “By partnering with the private sector, we can accelerate the process of meeting student needs and achieving the financial stewardship demanded of universities today.”
Fearon said Brock contributes more than $640 million to the local economy and that “our graduates are an important part of the talent pool that makes the region an attractive location for jobs and business investment.”
Scott Johnstone, Senior Associate Vice-President, Infrastructure and Operations at Brock who oversees the University’s residences, said working with development partners also aligns with Brock’s goal of enhancing the student experience.
“We know that students who stay in residence have an outstanding student experience,” he said. “Having students live on or near campus helps get them more actively engaged in their university experience, be part of peer group student supports and enhances their academic success.”
Having more capacity for middle or senior students directly enables them to mentor first-year students, he said.
One Canadian study found that many students who applied for but did not attend university said an influencing factor was the fact they couldn’t get into residence.
Fearon said Brock has heard the community speak, and agrees it makes sense on all fronts to find ways to help students be closer to campus.
“We need to be part of the solution,” he said. “Creating student resident options also allows us to be a good community partner by taking some of the pressure off of the affordable housing needs of the region.”