SOUTH PORTLAND, (AP) – Rising enrollment at Maine’s community colleges is making it harder for students to find a place to live while they attend school.

At Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, which has seen a 54 percent jump in enrollment in the last three years, administrators last year rented 40 rooms at the local Comfort Inn and Bangor Motor Inn and are hoping to add 10 more rooms next year.

“Our numbers have been surging,” president Joyce Hedlund said.

Other community colleges are scrambling to deal with housing needs. Officials at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield are talking about adding apartment-style housing, spokeswoman Alice Kirkpatrick said.

Students coming straight from high school are among the fastest-growing segment of community college students in Maine. More mobile than adult students, they are willing to relocate to pursue a specialized program offered at only one campus.

Southern Maine Community College has the greatest need for more housing, with enrollment up 40 percent in the last two years and more than 130 first-year students on a waiting list for on-campus housing.

Some potential students have withdrawn or decided on another school because of the lack of housing, Dean of Students William Berman said.

“I am sure many people are discouraged about our housing situation,” he said.

Only first-year students living more than 30 miles away qualify for housing, either in one of 130 on-campus dorm rooms at SMCC or 75 rooms at Portland Hall in Portland.Rooms are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, leaving 18- and 19-year-old first-year students struggling to find a place to live off campus before school starts.

A planning committee is putting together a proposal for a new dorm that could house 240 more students, part of a long-term facilities plan the college will release this summer. The college also has started looking at the use of housing construction bonds that would be paid off with student housing fees.

Until then, SMCC is soliciting Greater Portland homeowners to increase the list of available rooms and apartments and next month will hold a housing day for students.


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