Winter 2001 Journal: Colleges and Communities:

Click the cover image to view and download this issue in PDF format.

Winter 2001
For more information, contact:
John O. Harney, Executive Editor, Connection

Colleges and Communities: Connection Magazine Explores Complex Housing Issues in New England’s College Towns-and Cities

  • New England Board of Higher Education’s quarterly journal looks at vexing aspect of town-gown relations
  • CONNECTION also features U.S. education expert’s take on how tales from a few elite colleges shape the public’s perception of higher education
  • Other articles examine venture capital in New England towns, distance learning and New England’s forests, and myths about online colleges

BOSTON – For years, civic leaders have talked up the overwhelmingly positive impact of New England’s 280 colleges and universities and their 800,000 students. But across the region, the effects of colleges on housing are increasingly problematic, and keg parties are the least of the problem, according to articles to be published next week in CONNECTION: NEW ENGLAND’S JOURNAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

“The issues are myriad. Despite evidence that living on campus provides more opportunities for students to interact with peers and faculty members and take part in extracurricular activities, large numbers of students-either by choice or due to lack of dorm space-seek out scarce housing in the community,” according to Connection.

Of Boston’s 135,000 undergraduate and graduate students, fewer than 29,000 live in campus housing. The others, many bankrolled by their parents, are willing to pay more for relatively low-quality apartments, thus putting upward pressure on rents.

“With Boston’s housing vacancy rate at a slender 3 percent, the flood of student renters leaves low-income families with few places to live,” according to Connection. “And as more non-resident, and thus non-voting students move into an area, neighborhoods lose political leverage. (Ever hear of college students pressuring a city councilor to fill potholes?)” Furthermore, recent college graduates hoping to work in Boston find they are unable to do so because of the lack of affordable housing.

Thanks partly to college students, the average monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment rose by 7 percent from 1998 to 2000, to almost $1,600, Connection reports.

In New Haven, Conn., where poverty and crime have pushed 8,000 residents out of the city during the past decade, the main housing problem is “undercrowding.” So Yale University offers faculty and staff monetary incentives to buy homes in New Haven and live in the city. Clark University offers a similar program in Worcester, Mass.

Even in less-populated sections of New England, such as Burlington, Vt., housing issues are a point of contention between universities and their host communities, according to Connection. Between 1993 and 1998, student demand for housing in one Burlington neighborhood increased rental prices by as much as 20 percent and forced the vacancy rate below 1 percent, compared with 8 percent nationally.

Connection is the quarterly journal of the nonprofit New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe)-and America’s only regional journal on higher education and the economy. Following is a summary of other articles in the new issue of the journal:

Good Neighbors? – From soaring rents to sour relations, housing dilemmas confound New England college towns. Connection explains how the region’s campuses and host communities such as Boston, New Haven, Conn., and Burlington, Vt., are paying increased attention to housing and other town-gown issues. Through a range of collaborative initiatives, colleges are encouraging faculty and staff to live in the community, promoting community service and educating off-campus students in the art of being good neighbors. What’s at stake? Just whether the institution on the hill and its students are viewed as an occupying army or as a resource for community-building. Connection also ranks New England cities by numbers of college students: Boston is first with 137,000; some of the region’s other big college towns will come as a surprise.

Dorm City – Boston community activist Shirley Kressel explains how college students put pressure on Boston’s housing market and create political imbalances. “Students band in groups and, wielding their parents’ money, bid rents beyond the reach of working-class (and even middle-class) families,” charges Kressel. “In a gradual process of displacement without gentrification, prices and quality of life progress inversely as the nature of neighborhood life changes. A once-diverse commercial spectrum narrows to a pizza-beer-futon mix; in summer, it’s a ghost town that threatens small businesses. The exodus of neighborhood residents, meanwhile, breaks up stable communities where families had lived together for generations. The infrastructure of community withers as churches, schools and civic associations lose membership. Ultimately, the neighborhood loses political power as active voters leave, and local officials figure they can neglect residents’ needs with impunity.”

Progressive Approaches to University-Community Relations – In Burlington, Vt., concerns about student pressure on the rental housing market, neighborhoods and traffic congestion peaked in the late 1980s as the University of Vermont’s enrollment grew dramatically. Burlington tried to cajole the university into softening the impact of its burgeoning student body-without success. But when UVM submitted an application for a new microbiology building, the city finally had the leverage it needed to get the attention of the institution on the hill. Five-term Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle explains how town-gown relations in Burlington “have been transformed from a contentious standstill to dynamic collaboration.”

College Town Ventures: Investors Look to Unleash Intellectual Power of New England Communities – Despite Boston’s concentration of research universities, research and development (R&D) dollars are far more evenly distributed in New England than are venture capital dollars. Indeed, for every $1 spent on R&D at Boston’s major research universities, an additional 84 cents is spent at New England university labs outside the city. But for every $1 of venture capital invested in Boston, just 11 cents goes to other New England communities. Venture capitalists Matt Harris and Bo Peabody explain how this imbalance provides an opportunity for their Village Ventures firm. The firm has identified 50 markets that are as rich in “intellectual capital” as the current top 10 venture markets but 25 percent cheaper to live in. Primarily college towns or “second-tier cities,” they are positioned to be the next Austins or Seattles in terms of nurturing technology companies. What they are missing is venture capital-not only money, but also business savvy.

Putting on the Glitz – U.S. Department of Education senior research analyst Clifford Adelman explains how tales from a few elite institutions form America’s impressions about higher education. Adelman presents an arsenal of data debunking popular views of grade inflation, graduation rates and the so-called “Culture Wars.”

Of Pines and Pixels: Distance Learning and Forestry in New England – Small forests-nine acres or less-represent two-thirds of New England’s privately owned, nonindustrial forestlands. But the urban emigrees who accidentally come to own much of this forestland through real estate transactions lack fundamental knowledge of forest issues and forestry management techniques. Former Yale Forestry Dean Charles H.W. Foster and Worcester Polytechnic Institute President Emeritus Edmund T. Cranch explain how distance learning via home computer could be used to improve management of the 700,000 New England forests.

Seven Myths about Online Colleges: An Inside View – Virtual colleges will harm bricks and mortar schools. Online colleges lack libraries and other resources. The lack of a classroom compromises learning. Teachers give students less attention online. Online courses lack rigor. Right? Not so fast. Robert V. Antonucci, the former Massachusetts education commissioner who now heads Harcourt Higher Education, a Cambridge-based “virtual college” for adults, debunks these and other myths surrounding Internet-based distance learning.

New England Futures: Higher Education Prepares for Change – Brown University Distinguished Professor Eleanor M. McMahon, the former higher education commissioner in Rhode Island, outlines key challenges facing New England higher education. Among them: developing talent across socioeconomic classes, balancing growing enrollment and shrinking financial resources, and ensuring that new technologies enhance quality and access.

Regional Druggists: Pharmacy Schools Seek Rx for Shortage – America needs 4,500 new pharmacists. The shortage is so bad that some Connecticut drugstores have had to close during business hours to comply with state law prohibiting them from operating without a pharmacist on site. Meanwhile, enrollment in typically expensive pharmacy schools has been declining. nebhe Associate Director of Regional Services Wendy Lindsay explains how one New England program is addressing the shortage of druggists by offering deep discounts on tuition at pharmacy schools.

Book Reviews – Freelance writer Alan R. Earls reviews Standardized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do To Change It. Former Bentley College President Joseph M. Cronin reviews Dollars, Distance and Online Education, as well as The Learning Connection: New Partnerships Between Schools and Colleges.

Online: Selected WebsitesConnection offers its periodic mini-directory of useful Websites related to student aid, higher education policy, school reform, gender equity, philanthropy and other important subjects.

To subscribe to Connection, send a check for $20 payable to the New England Board of Higher Education, 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111, call 617.357.9620 or visit Connection on the World Wide Web at Subscribers receive four issues, including the special annual FACTS directory of New England colleges, universities and institutes.


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