VUJ looking to build student housing

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — An addition to Vincennes University Jasper is in the works, this time geared toward student housing.

VUJ Dean Christian Blome said the university and the City of Jasper have been discussing how to use a public-private partnership to build a housing development that would be economical for students and accommodate a variety of living situations. Whether students are recent high school graduates or adults with spouses or children returning to school, the goal is to have housing options for all.

“We recognize there’s a [housing] need across the board,” Blome said.

VUJ first started exploring adding on- or near-campus housing after an enrollment boom over the last year a half that grew the community college’s enrollment to just under 500. Many of those new students, Blome said, are recent high school graduates seeking out VUJ for the career and technical education programs or who are on a traditional, four-year college path but are looking to take general education classes at VUJ at a lower cost than a traditional four-year college. Those students typically spend one to two years at VUJ before transferring to a four-year campus.

“We’re seeing a big trend in students trying to get their start at VUJ,” Blome said.

Some of those students travel from surrounding counties, which means commutes can be an hour or more. VUJ’s block scheduling that has classes meet once a week for three hours helps make that commute manageable, Blome said, but those students have also expressed interest in opportunities to live closer to campus.

To get a better handle on student interest in housing, VUJ sent out an online survey to all students, and 110 students have responded with 59 expressing interest in housing on or near campus.

“We were excited about that,” Blome said. “That’s a big number for us.”

Now, Blome and other leaders at VUJ are discussing the project with officials from the City of Jasper to come up with a project that is mutually beneficial. Looking at several housing studies conducted in Dubois County, Blome said, officials know there’s a need for affordable housing. VUJ’s students also need affordable housing, so the goal is to have the project meet both the county’s and the school’s housing needs.

Right now, Blome said, the team working on the project is “out in the weeds” hammering out details. There is no location chosen or designs worked up, but Blome doesn’t consider the project in the beginning stages anymore, either.

“I hope that in the near future, we’ll be able to share more details,” he said.

Adding student housing fits in with efforts across VUJ to look for ways the university can help students get past barriers that could hinder their studies, Blome said. The main goals for the university as a whole are to keep students on track with their studies, ensure they finish their programs and continue to keep the cost of attending VUJ low.

“We’re trying to be very mindful of the cost of college,” Blome said. “It goes back to serving students and removing barriers. I think this is a great example of how we can do that.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com