When Gary Turner stepped into the job as director at Kenai Peninsula College, he hit the ground running and hasn't slowed down since.
"Ever since I came here, I've marketed the college or placed our vision as KPC as a transition college. We are a place where rural students can come before going to the big city, they can come to us for two years and complete a two-year degree and be done, or press on to a four-year program at Anchorage or Fairbanks," said Turner.
According to Turner, many rural students hit the big cities and fail for a myriad of reasons and then return home. "We think KPC is a better way, and right now dorms or student housing is very much top line commitment for us," said Turner, who is looking for a local developer to implement his innovative plan to provide student housing at KPC. According to Turner the developer would be invited to build to KPC specifications on-campus housing for 72 students. KPC would then lease back the building and pay the developer monthly rent based on student rental over a 15 to 20 year contract. At the end of the contract term, the college would then buy the building back from the developer.
This is a concept that has worked successfully in other states as well as with military installations. "We know the University doesn't have the money to give us to build student housing, this is a way we can get it and give a developer a return on the investment as well as the knowledge that they have done something good for the community," added Turner.
The proposed design for the dormitory facilities is also creative and unique from campuses anywhere in the Lower 48 states. The concept is based upon a pod-type of circular structure where students would have their own bedrooms and bathrooms and in the center of the pod there would be a basketball court or a commons area where students could meet, study, exercise or even attend classes. "Students and parents really like the housing unit concept as opposed to the traditional dormitories. The native community is really in favor of this because it provides a community atmosphere rather than a room where you are just off by yourself," added Turner.
Presently there are students who rent rooms in private houses, but Turner doesn't believe that is meeting the need or providing a feel for student life, which is a big part of going to college. Presently students from rural Alaska only have a choice of going to Anchorage, Fairbanks, or outside to experience that life. Turner wants KPC to offer the alternative to big city campuses. He is hopeful that the new facilities could be ready in two years. "Everyone agrees we needed them yesterday, but within the next few weeks the University will put out a request for information which will solicit developers that might be interested. We're really looking forward to it, there are some qualified local developers we hope will be interested because we would like to work with local people," said Turner.
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