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Editorial: Colleges are building smart

Molloy College President Drew Bogner gives students Stephanie

Molloy College President Drew Bogner gives students Stephanie Meyer and John Zimmermann, both juniors and resident advisors, a tour of Maria Regina Hall currently under construction to become the college’s newest dorm building for students at Molly College in Rockville Centre on March 19, 2013. Credit: Heather Walsh

Long Island has a housing problem. So do our colleges and universities. The issues are linked but our institutions of higher education, unlike most of our municipalities, are actively attacking the problem. For that they are to be commended.

Facing a shortage of on-campus housing, at least eight local schools -- public and private -- are building facilities or renovating old ones. More than $300 million has been committed for dormitories for more than 1,500 students. Accommodations for hundreds more are being planned. Some colleges have completed projects. This building boomlet echoes a national campus arms race in which billions of dollars are spent annually on new construction to lure students with such amenities as new food courts, gyms, student centers -- and dorms.

Our local schools also are responding to specific local trends. Declining enrollments, for example, are plaguing elementary schools and inevitably will reach higher education. Colleges will have to recruit more students from outside Long Island. Where will they live? Not off-campus, most likely, given our lack of affordable housing and rentals.

Alleviating that chronic shortage remains a struggle. Young people continue to leave the region and employers say attracting new workers from off-Island is difficult in part because of housing costs. Several advocacy groups are exploring the creation of an affordable housing coordinator whose task would be to build support for proposed affordable housing developments among residents in those communities. To help keep young Long Islanders here after they finish school, Suffolk County is considering a proposal to build affordable rental housing on college campuses.

These are potentially good initiatives. But our colleges and universities are taking concrete steps. It's time our counties, towns, cities and villages became similarly engaged.