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Kwantlen eyes student housing for Richmond campus
Kwantlen Polytechnic University could soon join the ranks of other post-secondary institutions by offering student residences—with its Richmond campus playing host.
Housing would be a first for the university, whose officials consider the Lansdowne Road campus a prime location given KPU's burgeoning foreign student population. As of September, international students accounted for 9.4 per cent of the school's 14,382 learners.
"One of the barriers to that growth is that we don't have a residence attached to any of our campuses across the Lower Mainland," said Jeff Norris, chief advancement officer at KPU. "Our first place that we would like to build a residence will be KPU Richmond."
In a presentation to city council Monday, Norris said Kwantlen will issue a call next year to developers interested in building a student housing complex with at least 600 units. Kwantlen has yet to decide whether it would be build on its Lansdowne Road campus or an adjacent site, said Norris.
"That will give great expansion in terms of international students coming into the community, and obviously some great opportunities around economic development."
Student residences have long been a fixture at University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University. B.C. Institute of Technology's Burnaby campus also offers housing, accommodating 336 students.
But none of Kwantlen's four campuses offer student housing. For the 1,357 international students registered at KPU this year—a jump of 12 per cent over last year—Kwantlen suggests homestay accommodations through an outside agency based in North Vancouver.
Coun. Derek Dang said foreign students are a "profit centre," and wondered if boosting their enrolment would be at the expense of local students.
Norris acknowledged the revenue from foreign students, but said students ultimately benefit from a more international student base.
"The reality is students need to be able to do their work in a world situation rather than just…locally," he said.
Adding student housing to the crowded Richmond campus will be a challenge. Construction crews will already be crowding the property later this year when they build the foundation for the $36-million Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design.
The 52,740-square-foot school, scheduled to be complete by July 2015, will be built over a surface parking lot facing Lansdowne Centre mall, freeing up space inside the existing campus building now running at "104 per cent capacity," according to Norris.
The school will offer education in fashion, interior and product design and graphic design for marketing. And despite being built over an existing parking lot, just five parking spaces will be lost to the new building, said Norris.
"It is going to be a state of the art design school, and certainly will help that design program continue to build its reputation worldwide, but also expand the number of students coming through the program."
Kwantlen's four-hectare (10-acre) Richmond campus was built in 1992. Last year Kwantlen undertook a $5-million renovation, noted Norris. It included a "massive" update to the library and its resources, a new conference centre space and a refresh of public spaces.