Dare eyes dorms for COA students


Dare County officials are "looking down the road" at the possibility of building dorms for students attending College of The Albemarle's consolidated Roanoke Island Campus. The current campus is shown Dec. 21, 2016.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dare County officials believe “the sky’s the limit” for College of The Albemarle’s Roanoke Island Campus, and are even considering offering dormitory-style housing for students if the campus becomes a destination for students across the state.

COA Trustee Robert Woodard, who also chairs the Dare Board of Commissioners, told fellow trustees Tuesday that the county has big plans for its COA campus.

Among those plans, Woodard said, is construction “down the road” of dormitories for COA’s Dare campus. He said Dare is trying to move as quickly as possible to plan and design the new campus because the county’s capital improvement program has the project slated for 2019.

If the Dare campus were to include dormitories for students it would be a first for community colleges in the state.

Dare County has formed a task force to look at suggested curriculum programs for the new Roanoke Island campus. The panel is being chaired by Commissioner Danny Couch and members include Tom Murphy, COA Trustee Artie Tillett, COA Dare Campus Dean Tim Sweeney, Malcolm Fearing, and Anne Petera.

The task force will seek input from the public and recommend programming for the campus, Woodard told the COA Board of Trustees last week, emphasizing that the committee’s role will be strictly advisory and that Dare officials understand curriculum decisions are made by college officials.

Dare is strongly committed to offering the best possible educational opportunities for its own residents, but also wants to attract community college students from elsewhere in the state, Woodard said. The Dare campus could become a college destination if it’s promoted well, he said.

Potential marketing campaigns could feature such slogans as “Come to the Outer Banks for College” or “Surf and Study,” Woodard said.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said.

COA President Robert Wynegar said the college has not had any prior discussion with Dare officials about the prospect of student dormitories at the Roanoke Island campus.

“It’s not something we’re saying ‘no’ to but it’s not something we’ve put any thought into, either,” Wynegar said.

Wynegar said if the time comes that Dare officials are ready to look at constructing dormitories, COA officials will consult with the State Office of Community Colleges regarding how the arrangement would work.

Brian Long, a spokesman for the N.C. Community Colleges System, said construction of a dormitory located on a community college campus would be subject to the same requirements as any other major community college facility. 

“There’s no policy of the State Board of Community Colleges that would prevent a community college from having a residence hall,” Long said.

Community colleges in North Carolina currently do not include dormitories for students, but Wynegar said he had worked at community colleges in other states that do feature dormitory housing for students. He said one reason North Carolina doesn’t have campus housing at its community colleges is a current lack of need. There are 58 community colleges in the state, meaning nearly any student lives within a 30-minute commute of a campus.

That dynamic would change somewhat if the Dare campus were to succeed at attracting large numbers of out-of-area students.

Although attracting out-of-area students has been mentioned during talks about the future of the Dare campus, the focus has been on improving opportunities available to Dare County students, as evidenced by recent meetings of the county’s Board of Commissioners.

Woodard said in opening remarks at the Dare board’s Oct. 16 meeting that he, along with two other county commissioners and the county manager, had met with COA officials to discuss plans for the Dare campus, which include $8.1 million for a campus consolidation project. Of that amount, COA wants to spend $1.5 million from its NC Connect bonds while Dare would foot the remainder. 

One stumbling block to COA’s use of the bond funds in Dare is the fact it’s still prohibited by state law. State lawmakers approved legislation earlier this year allowing expenditure of COA bond funds in Currituck County for a county-owned public safety building project there. The campus consolidation project in Dare, however, was removed from the measure because of opposition from state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and state Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare.

Cook said he opposed the measure because of Boswell’s opposition. Boswell claimed she opposed the bill because she wasn't approached about it and said it was introduced at the last minute before the “crossover” period. Crossover refers to a deadline by which either the House or the Senate must approve a bill for it to remain actionable during a legislative session. The General Assembly's website showed, however, that the COA legislation was introduced on April 6, but crossover wasn’t until April 27.

COA officials hope to get a Dare facility bill passed in the upcoming legislative session next year.

According to minutes of the Dare commissioners’ Oct. 16 meeting, Woodard said an important reason to build the new Roanoke Island campus facility would be to offer Dare students the opportunity to receive a full two-year degree in Dare without having to travel to other COA campuses.

The Dare commissioners at that same meeting held a public forum on plans for new COA facilities in Dare.

Willo Kelly, speaking on behalf of the Outer Banks Homebuilders Association, said that COA should consider offering a skills-based education in Dare County since jobs exist for various trades in the home building industry.

Dare restaurateur Ervin Bateman cited the need for a culinary curriculum program in Dare, which he said would be beneficial for the county’s hospitality and tourism industry.

Minutes from Dare commissioners’ Oct. 16 meeting also indicate Commissioner Jim Tobin said that he and Boswell want to explore a possible public-private partnership with Vidant Health System to provide X-ray technician training for Dare students.