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  • Colorado School of Mines invests in 800-bed sophomore dorm
  • Growing trend of colleges solving affordable housing shortage

The Colorado School of Mines is turning to the muni market for the second time in six months to address a housing shortage for its growing campus of roughly 7,000 students just outside of Denver.

The investment-grade deal, managed by Morgan Stanley, is slated to raise nearly $200 million to fund the construction of more affordable housing for sophomores, according to bond documents. In October, the school sold $132 million of debt to renovate a student complex called Mines Park, adding roughly 520 beds to the apartment-style community for more senior and graduate students.

The science and engineering school, located in Golden, Colorado, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) outside Denver, is part of a growing cohort of colleges facing a housing crunch in already competitive markets.

The Denver-area in particular has seen an sharp increase in rental prices the last several years making the region increasingly unaffordable. Median rents in Jefferson County, where Golden is located, climbed about 76% from a decade earlier, according to US Census Bureau data as of 2022.

“We are located in the west side of Denver and it’s very, very expensive,” said Kristen Volpi, vice president and chief financial officer at the Colorado School of Mines. “Students are unable to find private apartments that they can afford, so they’re having to move to other suburbs, further away.”

Schools in other metro areas have also tried to expand housing options. This spring, the University of California Los Angeles will start expanding one of its apartment buildings, according to a university press release. The University of Michigan approved a plan to spend as much as an estimated $540 million on a 2,300-bed residence hall to address a decades-long housing shortage on campus and provide affordable options, according to a report last month.

The Colorado School of Mines is not the only school that’s tapping investors to raise funds for such projects. Whitman College, a private liberal arts school in Washington, is expected to sell $34 million of bonds in the coming weeks to mainly fund the construction of a 212-bed residential village for juniors and seniors. Set to open August 2025 and aimed at enhancing student life, the village will also address the challenge of finding affordable off-campus apartments, according to a press release.

“Undergraduate students face the same barriers to accessing affordable housing that households do across the country,” according to Francis Torres, senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “And college students, especially students at community colleges or state universities, are often coming from lower income backgrounds or are deferring their income in order to be studying and focus their time on their education.”

And those education costs have increased over the last two decades, with tuition, fees and room and board up 32% at public universities and 26% at private nonprofit institutions, according to the Washington DC-based non-profit policy center.

Volpi, the School of Mines CFO, says the new residence hall is intended to give students the option to live on campus. Construction of the 800-bed dorm, a project that covers almost six football fields, will start next month and be completed for fall 2026. The plan includes a dining hall as well as suites with kitchens, gyms and study rooms.

Growing enrollment is scooping up supply on campus, causing a housing crunch. A private studio apartment in the new residence hall will cost about $15,100 for the school year, with cheaper options available in two and three-bedroom units, according to bond documents which state the new facility will charge rents around the same price as one current complex.

The college enrolled just under 7,000 full-time equivalent students this past fall — that’s 17% higher from five years ago, according to the bond documents. The school has been able to accommodate first-year students, but not all sophomores who are looking for housing, Volpi said.

Written by: — With assistance from Sam Hall @Bloomberg

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