When you think back to your college days, what stands out? For many, college is the first opportunity for a student to move away from a childhood home and take another step toward full adulthood. Finding housing away from home can be expensive, especially for students enrolled in graduate programs.
Recently, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden visited The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a vibrant campus with over 700 graduate students. Until now, those students did not have an option to stay in a graduate dorm. They are being housed in Salisbury, Maryland and commuting. This is time-consuming and expensive.
The Deputy Secretary used her visit as an opportunity to announce a pair of USDA loans to the University totaling over $12.7 million through the Community Facilities Program. Funding will support the purchase of a 38 acre site plus construction of seven graduate dorm buildings, containing a total of 144 two-bed units. The units will be owned by Maryland Hawk Corporation, a non-profit organization.
According to the University, the new dorms will assist students studying the health-care fields: “We’re able to get affordable loans at lower interest rates, and it’ll make the per-monthly rent for the students very affordable,” said Jerry Redden, who directs the Maryland Hawk Corp. “That’s a high priority. It’s not only the living experience, but the affordability of it.” “Housing is a significant decision – part of that decision (where to study) is choice,” Harden said. “This allows the university to be able to be more competitive in certain programs and to allow more students to live right here, participate (and) be part of this community.” USDA’s Rural Development program “takes pride in addressing needs that are specific to local communities,” Harden said. Somerset County, home to a public land-grant university, easily fits that profile.
A portion of the USDA loan package is backed by the Bank of Delmarva. When finished, the development will provide student parking, be handicap-accessible and be served by public transportation.