2 western Mass. community colleges partner with private school to offer housing for students

Two community colleges in western Massachusetts are partnering with another school in Springfield to help provide housing for their students.

Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College are two-year institutions without on-campus housing. They’ve struck a deal with American International College to house students who want to live in a dormitory at AIC.

Renee Tastad, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of enrollment management & college access at HCC, said this will help students experiencing housing instability.

“We all know that it’s really hard to study and learn when you’re not getting a good night’s sleep or you’re not getting a good meal,” Tastad said. “It’s also hard to study and learn when your home life might be kind of chaotic.”

Tastad said HCC students receive free passes for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s busses, which will help students living at AIC commute to Holyoke. She also said a shuttle service could be implemented if there’s enough interest.

STCC President, John Cook, said the idea for the program came from a similar partnership between a community college and a state college in eastern Massachusetts. He said the new program could encourage students to enroll full-time and that more than 60% of STCC’s students attend part-time.

“If you know, certainly at least for the two years you attend full time to pursue an associate’s, that it allows you to try to accelerate, that’s one of the values we see in this partnership,” Cook said.

In a statement, AIC President Hubert Benitez said of the partnership with STCC: “This relationship goes way beyond signing this agreement. It’s about people,” said Benitez, who added, “This is an important partnership between a private and a public college to assist Springfield students in overcoming barriers to higher education that may be limited by several factors, including accessible and affordable housing.”

There’s also hope offering housing will help attract more students to both community colleges. Officials at both institutions said while enrollment has been bouncing back, it’s still below pre-pandemic levels. The program could begin as soon as the upcoming fall semester.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.

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