The foundation that oversees the Florida Keys Community College Lagoon Landing residence hall voted unanimously Wednesday to reduce summer rates to boost the occupancy rate.
Beginning in the summer of 2014, students staying for the full, 12-week term known as "Summer C" will pay $2,760, rather than the $4,010, including deposit and activity fee, the college had been charging.
"It's really more of a modification of the rates rather than simply cutting them," said Kerry Shelby, chairman of the Florida Keys College Campus Foundation. "We had a two-tiered rate for the last summer, which we modified to be one rate for the whole summer. It was $2,010 if you stayed for one term, or $4,010 for two terms. We've modified them to be $2,760 for the whole summer."
College President Jonathan Gueverra welcomed the move.
"With the new housing fee structure, students pay a flat rate for the entire summer," Gueverra said. "This allows them to take courses throughout the summer without having to worry about a second or third housing contract. For those who desire, they may elect to take a course in each of the sessions. Consequently, students can focus on a single course at one time while working at their part-time job, or they may want to pick up more hours at work if they desire."
Gueverra elaborated on the benefits of the new model:
"The student who elects to stay on after the spring semester is completed does not have to find housing for a portion of the summer. Therefore, there is no need to move out only to have to move in again if that student was returning in the fall. Operationally, the foundation does not have to generate multiple invoices or contracts for the same student.
"Since the occupancy for the summer terms have been very low for the first two years, if this model works, students will be able to live on campus for the summer at a lower cost and use the savings to accelerate the completion of their programs," Gueverra said. "It is also a great opportunity for graduating high school seniors who want to get an early start on college."
Shelby was also pleased with the Campus Foundation board's vote.
"The summer is clearly a slow period, but our goal is to make the dorm as available as possible and we feel that this is a better structure."
Currently, the 100-bed dorm has 96 students staying there, with some 70 of those pupils expressing an interest in staying on for the spring term. Another 80 potential "Goonies," as dorm residents are called, are on a waiting list for that term.
The rate cut is the latest attempt by the college's Direct Support Organization to boost the rate of occupancy at the dorm, which has been a drain on college finances since the dorm's inauguration in the fall of 2011. Earlier this year, the state auditor general warned the college that it had thrown the future of its marine propulsion building, currently under construction, in doubt by diverting some $800,000 in Public Education Capital Outlay funds to dorm finances.
That finding led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission to place the college on "warning" status.
Currently, the Campus Foundation faces a bond payment of about $380,000, due by Nov. 1.
Two representatives of the bondholder were on hand at Wednesday's meeting, having spent the day touring the facilities and meeting with college personnel.
"We have been working with the majority bondholder towards solutions," Shelby said. "They realize that it's in both of our interests to make the dorms work. We have their cooperation, and we're making, I think, significant progress towards that end."
Gueverra also expressed optimism that the meeting with bondholder representatives had been fruitful.
"The visit ... is just their desire to see the asset that they recently acquired," he said. "As indicated at yesterday's meeting, the investors want to work with the foundation to add value to Lagoon Landing so it can be successful.
"And to be sure that everyone understands, the foundation has pledged the revenue from Lagoon Landing in what is referred to as a gross revenue pledge," Gueverra said. "Simply put, all of the cash collected for Lagoon Landing under the terms of the trust indenture must be submitted to the trustee, and together the trustee and the investors determine how the proceeds are distributed."