With more than 3,600 students, College of Coastal Georgia has hit another enrollment milestone. But it may have been higher if it had more than 700 on-campus beds.
Scott Williamson, interim vice president for advancement and marketing, acknowledged that campus housing could be a limiting factor in student body growth, but that it is not the only one.
“We are watching housing closely,’’ Williamson said. “We have to grow in a whole lot of areas.”
To attract other students, Coastal Georgia must create more degree programs, scholarships and community support, he said.
Although students don’t take advantage of everything the college offers, they take up every bed the college offers.
Coastal Georgia opened its first residential facility, 350-bed Lakeside Village in 2011. Coastal Place Apartments, about four miles off campus, opened as an athletic dorm in 2013. The converted motel now has 131 beds and is open to all students. Mariner Village opened in fall 2016 with 216 beds. It was that year that enrollment jumped to 3,529, a 12.7 percent increase that led the University System of Georgia in growth.
That comes to 697 beds total and, Williamson said, all three facilities are full. Corvias Campus Living built Mariner Village in a public-private partnership with the University System of Georgia and it now manages both of the on-campus facilities, he said.
“I know it’s been a great partnership for us,’’ Williamson said.
Not all of the 3,600 students require or even want to live on campus. The college has full-time and part-time students and a lot of “non-traditional students” that include some who have families and hold down jobs.
When the college handed out diplomas for the 2017-18 school year, it was the first time in its history that it conferred more four-year bachelor degrees than two-year associate degrees, Williamson said.
Like many other institutions, Coastal Georgia concentrates on providing on-campus housing for its freshmen and its sophomores who come from out of town. After fulfilling their core requirements, some students move on to larger institutions to complete degrees not offered at Coastal Georgia, and some who remain do stay on campus but not all can be accommodated.
“Priority is given to the underclassmen,’’ he said.
As enrollment grows, the college must consider its options for growth in a number of areas and not housing alone, Williamson said in an email.
“While there aren’t any immediate plans to build a new residence hall, housing is an area that we are watching closely and considering carefully,’’ he said.
Coastal Georgia is considering a range of options that could include working with off-campus developers, he said.
But he stressed there must be balance.
“Any initiative that benefits the community and benefits the college we would encourage,’’ Williamson said. “We would support those with dual benefits.”
A couple of would-be developers who specialize in off-campus housing have been in discussions with the owner of a large tract of land just across Altama Avenue from the college. As of Thursday, however, no contract has been signed and the owner, who wants to sell to the developer who would provide the most benefit to the college is weighing his options. Because of the sensitivity of real estate investments, the owner declined to provide the names of the developers or any proposals for publication.
As for dual benefits, Georgia Southern University in Statesboro hosts housing fairs and maintains a website to help students find off-campus housing. One of the newest on the university’s list is 111 South. It stresses a 10-minute walk to campus and walk-in closets and says it is pet friendly.
Monthly rates at some of the apartment complexes start at $299 and $365 and many interior photos of off-campus housing show common areas with spacious kitchens, dining areas and game tables.
College of Coastal Georgia isn’t there yet, but neither are those offering private housing. The college does make referrals to students, but many of the acceptable and safe apartment complexes are on the outskirts of town, officials said.
One apartment complex offers one to three beds at rates ranging from $915 to $1,800 while others are lower. One offering two to three beds ranges from about $900 to $1,200.
On some campuses, students go in together and rent houses, but that isn’t as attractive in Glynn County where resort vacation rentals drive up the rates.
As for on campus housing, Coastal Georgia isn’t the only institution in the system that could use more beds. Williamson obtained information from the university system on other colleges of the same relative size with similar missions including Dalton State, East Georgia State, Georgia Gwinnett and others. Williamson noted, “our occupancy rate is consistent with most others” typically between 90 and 100 percent occupancy.
In Statesboro, some off-campus housing complexes laud their amenities to attract students with one saying it had stand-up tanning facilities.
That probably wouldn’t be a draw to students considering Coastal Georgia. It has actual beaches nearby.