Over the past few months, speakers from Penn State Altoona and local organizations have appeared at the Logan Township supervisors' monthly meetings to encourage their support of the campus. They've stated how valuable the Altoona campus is to the economic growth of the area and how much it contributes to our economy.
A member of the Altoona Blair County Development Corp. seems to think the best way we can encourage the college's growth is to provide, and I quote, "a quality affordable housing stock that will support on- and off-campus housing."
We will support on-campus housing. Township supervisors made this possible two years ago by amending the institutional zoning codes to allow private developers to build on-campus resident housing. However, this has been rejected or ignored by Penn State officials.
If the campus wishes to expand, it is its responsibility to provide housing on campus, which is more desirable to parents and the surrounding residents.
The economical benefit of the Altoona campus to this community is unchanged by the location of student-living quarters.
If you search on the Penn State budget office website, you will find enrollment has dropped at 19 out of 25 campuses, including Altoona. I think with the ever rising cost of tuition and a stagnant economy, it will continue to decline.
Why do local leaders and developers think it should be the community's responsibility to provide housing? Is it a well thought out development plan for our residential community or just one to line their own pockets? Supervisor Frank Meloy stated in June 2010: "Our community is growing particularly in the residential areas, and without restrictions, property values suffer."
We applaud our supervisors for making "the best interests of the residents" their top priority, and we will remember come election day.
If Penn State Altoona needs more housing, we have a "move-in-ready" facility available. The former Mercy Hospital building is sitting empty. It has double occupancy rooms with private bath accommodations, a large lobby for students to gather, handicap regulations covered, ample parking, city codes already met, an empty warehouse building and is properly zoned for student housing.
Altoona, which has been declared a distressed city, would benefit by adding to its tax base.
For those who want to be "green" let's practice "green" - recycle.
New enrollment would have to exceed 556 students just to fill the housing already available. In 2010, the enrollment was 4,147. In 2011, the enrollment was 4,105, a decline of 42 students
The speculation on needed housing is only in the eyes of those who would make money at the expense of the residential neighborhood.
If Penn State Altoona wants to stay in good standing with the community and contribute to the community, they need to step up to the plate and build dormitories on campus.
We will always support Penn State Altoona, but not at the expense of community neighborhoods, the life and breath of a thriving city.
H. Naomi Thomas