College drops family apartments

2009-11-18T00:15:00Z College drops family apartmentsPETE NICKEAS Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
November 18, 2009 12:15 am  • 

CASPER — Families living in the Wheeler Terrace Apartments at Casper College have until the end of the school year to find new homes as the college shifts away from on-campus housing for families in favor of housing for traditional-age students.

The 18-unit building houses students and their children. Some of the students are single parents, while others live in the apartments with their spouses.

Students in the building were informed of the decision on Monday night by Joanna Anderson, vice president of student services, and Barb Meryhew, director of student life.

Ron Allen, Windi Bassler and their two children are among the dozen or so families who will need to find new housing before June. Allen said he and his wife make about $2,000 — too much to qualify for low-income housing — but were trying to better themselves through school.

Had the school approached them sooner, they would have saved money for relocation costs instead of paying down debts, Allen said.

“Right now we’re kind of going on a wing and a prayer,” Bassler said.

“This is about dollars and cents,” Allen said. “They’re going to make more money with dorms.”

Officials acknowledge that there’s a clear financial incentive to moving families out and moving younger students in. Thirteen of the building’s 18 units are occupied by families at a cost of $500 per month.

Though Meryhew couldn’t say exactly how much students would pay to live in the dorm once renovations are complete, students each pay $980 per month to live in other residence halls on campus and must buy meal plans. The 18 units in Wheeler Terrace would be likely to house two students each, Meryhew said.

In addition, the school plans to demolish another dorm in May, and Anderson said the school hopes to squeeze three students to a unit at Wheeler Terrace until the new dorm is built.

But the financial incentive was just part of the school’s reasoning, Anderson said. Police calls to the building for suspicion of drug use and domestic disputes influenced the college’s decision to move away from family housing, Anderson said.

Allen said he was worried about finding a home that was both safe and comparable in price to the $500 monthly rent his family pays.

“You can find a place at the ‘felony flats,’ of course,” Allen said, in reference to apartments on South McKinley Street. “But if you let your kid outside, you better keep a close eye on them, otherwise the two perverts and three drug dealers are going to be all over them.”

When taking into consideration graduation and some on-campus housing available for single parents with just one child, Meryhew said only a handful of families should be affected.

The announcement to students came one day before the college’s board of trustees was scheduled to take a formal vote on the matter.

Despite not having formal approval from the board, Meryhew said the school wanted to warn students about the closure so they wouldn’t have to hear second-hand that their building was being closed.

Contact Pete Nickeas at pete.nickeas@trib.com or 307-266-0639.

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