Board Discusses Housing, Bond Issue, Enrollment

Published 02.18.2005


Student housing and growing enrollments were among the topics discussed when the Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors held its regular meeting on Thursday.

Senior Vice President Dr. William J. Martin told the Board that Spring 2005 enrollment reached 5,916 (head count) and 5,430 FTE (full-time-equivalent), an increase of 153, or 2.89 percent, over Spring 2004. This represents an all-time high for the spring semester. The College had budgeted for a Spring 2005 FTE enrollment of 5,399, Dr. Martin said.

College's Board of Directors meetsThe Board authorized midyear budget adjustments for the Unrestricted Current and Plant funds to reflect revenue and expenditure changes related to actual Spring 2005 enrollments and to recognize interfund transfers in the Plant Funds.

The Board also heard that growing enrollments are impacting the availability of student housing, both on campus and in the community.

Dr. Jill Landesberg-Boyle, vice president for student affairs, told the board that, even with the slight increase in the number of available beds, on-campus housing is expected to reach capacity at 1,503 beds in the fall. Occupancy already exceeded expectations in the current year, opening at 100 percent in Fall 2004 and 99 percent this spring; estimates were 97 percent occupancy in fall and 96 percent in spring.

All available spaces for Fall 2005 were filled on Jan. 14. At present, an additional 190 new students and 42 returning students have expressed an interest in on-campus housing. Dr. Boyle said it is not uncommon for up to 200 slots to open between now and the start of the fall semester, due to changes in students' plans.

In an effort to accommodate more students in 2005, Residence Life expanded its triple program, which allows students the option of living three to a room at a slightly reduced cost. This expansion increased the number of beds in triple units to 38 (up from 19 last fall).

The Off-Campus Housing Office estimates that the total number of students needing housing has risen from 1,551 in 1989, when all students lived off-campus because the College offered no on-campus housing, to 3,606 in Fall 2004, when 1,440 students lived on campus.

J. Elliott Strickland Jr., special assistant to the vice president for student affairs, told the Board that an estimated 2,166 students lived in off-campus housing in Fall 2004. Strickland, who works as a liaison with off-campus landlords, reported that the College's off-campus housing list includes 67 landlords and 233 listings. The listings ranging from single rooms to two residential complexes with 36 units that accommodate up to 350 students.

To be included on the list, which is offered to prospective students seeking housing in the community, landlords must agree to have their rental facilities inspected annually by the Williamsport Codes Department, Strickland explained. He also indicated that the list has grown substantially in recent years; in Fall 1997, only 32 landlords and 54 listings were included.

In recent years, Penn College has increased services to improve communication between students and landlords, enhance safety, and deal more effectively with students who become involved in serious incidents or crimes off campus. Last fall, the College added two police officers to its force for the purpose of patrolling neighborhoods adjacent to the campus.

These efforts have resulted in more timely interaction with students who live off campus and become involved in inappropriate and illegal activities. While the number of reported off-campus crimes involving students declined from 106 in Fall 2003 to 68 in 2004, the number of judicial hearings for off-campus student offenders (60 last fall, compared with 14 in 2003) and the number of drug- and alcohol-related arrests (58 last fall, compared with 29 the previous year) increased.

Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, president, said the College and local landlords must work together to meet the needs of a growing student population.

"Students and their parents consider housing to be an important element in their college choice," Dr. Gilmour said. "In order to meet the needs of a growing student body, we must offer a wide range of quality housing, including both on-campus and off-campus options. Our growth presents a great opportunity for Williamsport's private property owners who are able to provide accommodations that are attractive to students and their parents. We all must work together to promote safe, clean, attractive housing options for students."

Veronica M. Muzic, vice president for academic affairs/provost, told the Board that two new majors would be introduced in Fall 2005. A traditional bachelor's degree in Nursing Science will allow freshmen students to begin study toward this baccalaureate degree. In the past, baccalaureate degree study was open only to those who had completed the associate degree and earned registered nurse credentials. A new emphasis in the Automotive Technology program will add Honda to the list of industry-supported majors that includes Toyota and Ford. Before the addition of Penn College, Honda supported only three such programs in the East (New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida).

The Board also learned that a 20-year, $15.9 million Series 2005 Bond Issue, marketed on Wednesday, resulted in net-present-value savings of $355,939 for the College. The bond issue includes $8.19 million of new money for capital projects (the new library and renovation of the former BiLo property) and $7.71 million to refinance the 1997 issue bonds. The underwriters reported strong interest in the bonds and favorable interest rates, according to Robert M. Fisher, vice president for business affairs.

The Board approved a new Banking Services Policy that makes banking activities distinct from investments. In presenting the policy to the board, Fisher said previously, banking services were included in the College policy pertaining to investments. The policy was revised to permit high-quality commercial paper as an allowable investment, to add mid-capitalization equities to the investment-asset categories, and to update the descriptions of small-, mid- and large-capitalization equities to match current industry definitions.

The Board also heard an update on the Social Security number conversion project from James E. Cunningham, chief technology officer. Cunningham explained that programming was updated in 2,000 application modules and 15,000,000 database records were changed in the project designed to protect student identities. All students and employees were issued new identification cards in January, following the actual system conversion that took place over the holiday break.

The Board recognized director Craig Weidemann who was recently named the 2005 recipient of the Julius M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership, considered to be the most prestigious of all University Continuing Education Association awards.