This article originally appeared at VirginiaMercury.com.

The state board that oversees community colleges will explore what on-campus or nearby student housing could look like at the system’s 23 schools.

Chancellor Glenn DuBois, who is in charge of leading the community college system as it anticipates a decline in enrollment, said he thinks housing would draw more students to certain campuses.

“Northern Virginia is missing out in thousands, potentially millions, from international students,” he said at a board meeting Thursday. “No parent is going to send their child to America if they don’t know where they’re going to live.”

Members of the Virginia Community College System State Board unanimously voted to allow the facilities department to issue a request for statements of interest and qualifications from companies that could design, build and manage student housing.

They board added a condition that the responses should consider building Section 8 units into any proposal to provide housing for the system’s lowest income students. About 25% of all the students enrolled in a community college in Virginia receive Pell Grants, one way to measure income level.

Responses will help the community college system gauge what housing, if any, they could offer. 

Community college campuses weren’t laid out to accommodate dorms, said board member Robin Sullenberger, but there may be creative solutions, like re-purposing unused buildings as housing.

The board has no timeline on receiving responses or making decisions on moving forward with campus housing. “We’re kind of fishing to see what some entrepreneurs out there can provide,”  DuBois said. “I don’t think it makes sense for every college to provide housing but it could help on the access and retention side.”

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