Kaplan University dorm to accommodate university students and Volvo interns

August 02, 2013|By DON AINES |
  • Kaplan University President Christopher Motz talks about the refurbished dorm rooms at Fawley Hall.
By Ric Dugan / Staff Photographer

A student housing unit at Kaplan University in Hagerstown had been used for anything but that for a number of years, but is now returning to its original purpose by accommodating both university students and Volvo interns, according to the president of the university’s Maryland campuses.

“We had a building that outlived its usefulness, or so it seemed,” Christopher Motz said recently.

In the future there could be greater need for student housing, some of it for other institutions and businesses, he said.

“I can see more and more opportunities for higher education” in the Hagerstown area, and a need to house students, Motz said. “There’s a potential for Hagerstown to become a destination for education.”

The dormitory currently houses six Kaplan students, but there are also a dozen Volvo interns living there, including students from East Coast universities and overseas, Motz said.

In addition, there is an intern there with JLG Industries, a mobile work-platform manufacturer in McConellsburg, Pa., he said.

Volvo previously directed interns to housing opportunities in the area, but good short-term housing for two or three months is hard to find, said Belinda Vinson, communications manager for Volvo Group Trucks in Hagerstown.

Currently, there are about 60 interns working at Volvo, Vinson said.

“We just happened to have a dormitory that was underutilized right over their property line,” Motz said.

This pilot program is expected to expand in 2014 with more rooms being converted back to housing, he said.

“Talk about location, location, location, they’re right next to us,” Vinson said.

The housing and monthly fee per student is cost-effective, convenient and allows those interns to collaborate when not at the plant, she said.

An economic development strategic plan adopted earlier this year by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission recommended a need for a better educated work force to supply the skills needed for existing and future businesses.

One suggestion from the plan was for a four-year university with student housing that would stimulate economic activity downtown.

Although Kaplan’s facility does not really fulfill those goals, it does bring to the area future professionals who might become future residents.

“They’re trying to attract, ultimately, employees,” Motz said.

“That’s what it’s all about ... our future work force,” Vinson said. “We’re bringing them here to see what Hagerstown and Washington County are about.”

“Essentially, these are three-room apartments with a common living, dining and kitchen area,” Motz said during a tour of one of the units.

If all are converted back to student housing, there are 12 units in the building on Kaplan’s campus off Crestwood Drive, each suite capable of holding up to six students, he said.

The dormitory was built in 1985, but “over the years, our student population changed,” drawing more from the immediate area, Motz said.

“We carved the building up over the last 10 years into record storage, our bookstore was here ... and a number of offices still exist on the first floor,” he said.

Reaching out to industries and other educational institutions, such as the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, could provide more opportunities to fill its dormitory, Motz said.

“There is a need for housing and we certainly aren’t going to limit that to Kaplan students,” he said.

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