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THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2007
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Athens State plans to close dorms; student says some may transfer

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — More than 20 Athens State University students likely will be looking for a place to live at the start of the fall semester.

The university is considering closing the dorms at Sanders Hall to move the College of Business into the building.

"We're strongly headed in that direction," said university spokesman Rick Mould. "Since we cut the athletic program, the number of students living there has gone down, and our College of Business is spread throughout the campus. This would bring the business program into one location."

Sanders Hall can house up to 72 students. This semester, 28 are staying there.

"Most staying in the dorms are local students because it's so reasonably priced," Mould said.

The cost per semester is $550 for a double occupancy room, $650 for a small private room or $750 for a large private room. The housing fee includes local telephone, cable TV and Internet access.

In comparison, Wednesday's classified ads in local papers showed Athens apartments renting from $350 to $450 a month.

"I used to rent a house but couldn't afford the rent plus paying for school," said student Ryan Green, who has lived in a dorm for a year. "If they make us move before fall, then I'll be taking summer classes and summer exams while looking for a place to live."

Green does not have family in the area.

Housing opportunities

Mould said the university is compiling a list of housing opportunities and will work with students if the dorms close. The earliest the university would close the dorms is this fall, he said. Mould said the timetable depends on the state Legislature. The university hopes to get enough funding from a proposed state bond issue to renovate Sanders Hall for faculty offices and classrooms for the College of Business. The bond amount could be between $850 million and $1 billion, which the state would divide between higher education and K-12 school systems.

"It's been close and convenient for me, and with gas prices as high as they are, I haven't had to worry with that expense," Green said.

When he goes to downtown Athens from the university, he rides his bike, he said.

"There is no way I'm going to find anything that is as affordable as these dorms or as convenient," he said. "If the numbers were dropping, the university should be generating more interest in the dorms."

Mould said the addition of online courses and night classes also has dropped the number of students staying on campus and turned the university into a commuter school.

Green said he and fellow dorm students are considering transferring to other schools, such as The University of North Alabama, if Athens State closes the dorms.

"This has been a tough decision for us," Mould said, "but the numbers don't justify keeping the dorms open."

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