NHTI to open year-round residence hall to address housing insecurity

  • The NHTI directory sign leading into the campus on Wednesday, Hune 10, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 6/19/2020 5:26:34 PM
Modified: 6/19/2020 5:26:22 PM

NHTI community college in Concord is converting one of its residence halls to a year-round living space to help students who are experiencing housing insecurity.

South Hall, one of the three dorms on NHTI’s campus, will open in the fall with a brand-new kitchen that will allow resident students to cook for themselves throughout the year.

“We know that students who struggle and suffer from housing insecurity, because of those additional stresses, they don’t do as well academically,” said Laura Pantano, vice president of student services. “For us to be able to say to students, ‘you do not have to worry about where you are going to sleep or where you are going to go when the academic year ends,’ it will relieve some of those anxieties.”

The college’s residence halls are typically closed during the summer, from early May to late August, and also on school breaks, including winter recess, Thanksgiving break and spring break.

With the old plan, students could stay on campus during those times but had to pay a fee to cover room and board. The new system, which starts in the fall, will allow students to opt in to a 12-month contract that costs slightly more than the regular academic contract but does not require an extra fee to stay on during breaks.

Bronzen Walker is a first-year student at NHTI who currently uses the option to stay on campus during breaks at an additional charge. Walker, who studies in the animation and graphic game programming department, has lived on campus through Thanksgiving break, spring break and summer break since starting college.

“I think, from the hardship that I’ve been having to go through for some time now, that the 12-month housing will be very helpful to students who have financial or housing problems,” said Walker, 20. “I think it’s very helpful that NHTI offers that opportunity to keep that roof over their heads so during breaks and stuff students are still capable of studying and preparing themselves.”

The decision was made final in late fall 2019 after several years of planning, but Pantano said the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March solidified for everyone that the decision was the right one to make.

When the college issued the requirement for students to leave residence halls and return home, there were 24 students who had no home to go to, according to director of residential life Trish Loring. Those students remained on-campus. Loring says 12-15 students on average choose to stay on campus during breaks.

This summer, the school is having a new kitchen constructed on the first floor of South Hall, which will allow students to cook for themselves during the breaks when the dining areas are closed.

“By putting the kitchens in the spaces, we take away a little of that worry about ‘where is my next meal coming from?’” Loring said. “That’s still a struggle for our students.”

The kitchen will have four cooking stations, each equipped with a stove, sinks and counter space. There will also be communal refrigerators, which will be installed next year after the risk of COVID-19 has decreased.

“I am really excited to have a big, bright space where students can gather together around cooking and eating once we are past COVID,” Loring said. “We will look forward to creating a new community for students who feel isolated at times.”

Walker is still deciding whether he will choose the 12-month contract next year, but he is glad the option is there for him, and for other students who need it.

“If students are encountering any sort of hardship that this could help them with, I think they should take it as soon as they hear about it,” Walker said.

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