With state budgets tight and demand for a college education at a high point, public universities across the country are increasingly turning to the private sector to build and finance on-campus dormitories.
Even before the recession, states found that companies that specialize in student housing could build residence halls more rapidly and cheaply than universities could. They can ease the burden of being a landlord. And perhaps most important, these partnerships free capital for facilities like classrooms and laboratories.
But as bad economic times make these arrangements even more appealing, the new efforts raise questions about how private ownership of dorms will affect student life and costs in years to come.
Public universities that have entered into or are considering such partnerships include the University of California, Irvine; Arizona State; Portland State; the University of Kentucky; and Montclair State in New Jersey, which in the fall opened the Heights, a two-tower complex with 2,000 beds and a 24,000-square-foot food court that officials say is the largest residence hall complex in the state.