Although Dutchess Community College has long enjoyed an excellent reputation — their tuition is the lowest in the state and they have the highest rate of transferability — there is one quintessential, long-awaited college experience they could not offer their students — until now. This month, Dutchess welcomes almost 500 full-time students to its brand-new, state-of-the-art residence hall. While more than half of New York’s community colleges currently have, or are building, residence halls, Dutchess is the first in the Hudson Valley to offer on-campus housing.
The idea was first brought to the table in 2007 as the board of trustees watched the evolution of community colleges across the country, driven partly by the tough economic climate. “If you’re looking at college as an investment, you come to realize that a community college is a smart way to go,” explains school spokesperson Judith Stokes. “People are becoming more consumers of higher education, asking, ‘What does a school offer? What is the return on investment?’ ” Now, at a school like Dutchess — where full-time tuition is just $3,100 per year — you can save tens of thousands of dollars on freshman and sophomore courses without sacrificing academic quality or the experience of living in a dorm with your peers. More than 81 percent of the college’s students go on to four-year schools; Stokes notes that, in the last few years, DCC students have transferred to many top-tier schools in the SUNY system as well as Harvard, Cornell, Vassar, Duke, RPI, Bard, and Fordham.
The four-story, suite-style Conklin Hall (named after current president Dr. D. David Conklin) was designed with student comfort, convenience, and safety in mind, with a multipurpose atrium (which is also used as a weekend dining facility), fitness center, and laundry room. Students will live in four-, five-, or six-person suites, all of which have living rooms; kitchenettes with full-size refrigerators, microwaves, and sinks; and two bathrooms. (There are six two-person suites, sharing one bathroom and a kitchenette.) In addition to all the cushy amenities, the building is heated and cooled using geothermal technology and has controlled access, meaning only those with a swipe-card key can enter the building. “Freshman and sophomore housing just doesn’t look like this,” Stokes insists. “We really built a facility that will serve the students well.”
While commuter students still far outnumber residents (the total enrollment was 10,000 students in 2011), the addition of on-campus housing is anticipated to change life for the better for everyone. “The students are so happy,” says Stokes. “More and more traditional-age students — those right out of high school — are making Dutchess part of their four-year college plan, and they want the on-campus living experience. There will be more activities; more students around in the evenings for lectures; the athletic teams will have more fans. It will be really good for the whole student body.”
The 2012 school year space was filled on a first-come, first-served basis, although the school may use a lottery system next year. Full-time students with at least one year of credits remaining are eligible for residence. To apply for the waiting list, visit www.sunydutchess.edu/dorm.