Friday, May 31, 2019

Stockton University OKs Atlantic City Student Housing Partnership

Stockton University has decided to move ahead with plans to expand student housing for its Atlantic City, New Jersey, campus, but it says it can't proceed unless it gets financial help from the state of New Jersey.

At a special meeting Wednesday, the school's board of trustees authorized the administration to negotiate a public/private partnership with Atlantic City Development Corp., known as AC Devco, for the second phase of its student housing project. AC Devco, a nonprofit redevelopment company, is proposing to build a $62 million, 405-bed residential complex on property adjacent to Stockton's campus on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.

However, the trustees’ approval is contingent on the state appropriating at least an additional $5 million in annual aid to the university to support the ongoing academic and operating costs associated with the project and the university's Atlantic City operations, Stockton said in a statement.

Gov. Phil Murphy's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

The university, based in Galloway, New Jersey, has created a $178.3 million campus on Atlantic City's well-known boardwalk. Diversifying the seaside city's economy beyond gambling, with newcomers like Stockton, is considered a linchpin in the gaming mecca’s successful future and ongoing economic recovery.

Last fall, Stockton and AC Devco opened a roughly 56,000-square-foot academic center at 3711 Atlantic Ave.; a 535-bed, nearly 220,000-square-foot student residential complex that faces the beach at 3701 Boardwalk; and a seven-story, 875-space parking garage at 3800 Atlantic Ave.
The additional student housing would be built on the site of the Eldridge Building at 3532 Atlantic Ave. , a university spokeswoman said in an email. The building is vacant and would be torn down and replaced by the student housing, according to the spokeswoman.

Currently, the university has housing for 3,484 students at both the Galloway and Atlantic City campuses. In fall 2018, the occupancy rate was 98%, Stockton said. The residential complex in Atlantic City is projected to be at capacity for fall this year, according to the university. Based on current and projected enrollment, Stockton said it will need additional housing in the 2021-2022 academic year.

In testimony before the state General Assembly budget committee in May, Stockton President Harvey Kesselman requested a $5 million increase in its annual appropriation in recognition of the university’s investment in Atlantic City and New Jersey’s students. This funding would be in addition to any money the state deems appropriate to promote funding equity among the four-year public comprehensive and research universities, according to Stockton.

Stockton and Montclair State University currently receive the lowest funding from the state per full-time student among the four-year public comprehensive and research universities, Kesselman said. Stockton received $18.4 million in direct operating funds from the state last year, according to the university spokeswoman.

“We are hopeful that the state will continue its investment in Atlantic City towards establishing an ‘eds and meds’ corridor critical for the city’s future, while stemming the outmigration of New Jersey students,” Kesselman said in a statement. “We are proud to play a role in this initiative but cannot proceed without corresponding state funding. The Legislature’s and the governor’s support are critical for this project to proceed.”

The Legislature hasn't presented its budget yet, and it won't be finalized until June 30.

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