Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC holding line on housing costs

05/29/2019 - 1pm
Students gather in The Backyard

Southwestern Michigan College is holding the line on housing costs to make college more affordable for students. There will be no rate increase for Fall 2019.

“May 15-June 1 we let folks pick roommates or select a specific room,” Director of Residence Life Jeff Hooks said. “You have to have a complete application to do either of those. Hopefully, that encourages people to get their stuff in. They’re about 90-percent full for fall. We’re hoping for 100-percent.”

SMC offers fully-furnished, four-bedroom suites. Bedrooms are private, accessible only by keycard, with common living areas. Each kitchen contains a refrigerator, oven, microwave and dishwasher. Communal bathrooms are as outdated as calling these apartments “dorm rooms.” Each suite has two bathrooms — one with a tub, one with a shower.

Keycard entry is required for the parking lot, each of the three residence halls, suites and bedrooms. Each floor has a residential advisor. Each building has a professional housing manager available 24/7. Visitors must check in at the front desk. Campus is patrolled day and night by an on-site security officer and an extensive camera network.

Each floor features a lounge with a big-screen TV and fireplace. The Backyard, a grassy area for cookouts, volleyball, outdoor movies or roasting marshmallows around the fire pit, connects the three halls. Free amenities include parking, wifi and cable, laundry and central air.

By definition, a dormitory is a large bedroom for a number of people in a school. “At least the 13 years I’ve been in housing there’s been an emphasis on not calling them dorms,” Hooks said. “‘Residence life’ encompasses more — programming, tutoring, socializing, counseling, emotional support and opportunities for students to pick up leadership skills and to grow and develop as a person. Next year we’re going to start up a Residence Hall Association for programming and affiliate with our regional organization.”

“I was a commuter student my first two years,” he said. “National statistics show you do better if you live in housing. You’re much more connected when you live on campus. You go to programs, get to know people and have a bigger support system. The more points of contact, the more likely you are to succeed. It’s like if you’re trying to lose weight and you’re at the gym, people are constantly talking to you about it, so you’re more likely to persist.”

Hooks’ surroundings influenced him to go to graduate school for his master’s degree. “Unless your parents work in student affairs, you don’t even know this career exists. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. When I was a student the campus cinderblock apartments I lived in were built after World War II for the GI Bill.”

“We want students to have the same experience as if they went to a four-year university, but at a vastly cheaper cost. We have probably the nicest student housing in Michigan. Some institutions turn housing over to third-party managers,” said Hooks, based in the David C. Briegel Building’s Office of First Year Experience (FYE).