Community college district considers building student housing

The College of San Mateo campus. CSM is one of three schools within the San Mateo County Community College District. Photo from the CSM website.

Correction: An earlier version of the story gave the wrong day for the district board’s meeting. It’s Thursday, Sept. 3.

Daily Post Staff Writer

There is a demand for nearly 1,000 student beds at each of the three community colleges in San Mateo County, according to a report that the San Mateo County Community College Board will review Thursday (Sept. 3).

District consultant Scion Advisory Services did a study of student housing demand among the college district’s students in the spring. Scion surveyed 2,551 students. The survey results helped Scion reach the conclusion that there is a demand for between 3,283 and 4,758 beds in the three-campus system, depending on how much the district charges for rent.

No examples of costs for the apartments were provided in Scion’s report.

The college district board had asked for a study that would determine how feasible it would be to have students live on campus and assess the district’s ability to build housing.

The district hired Irvine-based Scion, which specializes in campus housing analyses.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Scion and Vice Chancellor Mitch Bailey will over the study. Then district board members can ask questions and say if they’re interested in adding housing to any of the district’s campuses.

The survey found there is interest among students to live on campus, and that number of students interested in housing fluctuates depending on if the apartments or dorms will be lower-cost or if families can live on campus.

Scion also asked students to pick the campus they’d like to live at — Canada College in Redwood City, Skyline in San Bruno or College of San Mateo.

Most (74%) picked the College of San Mateo, followed by Skyline (60%) and Canada (56%). Respondents could pick more than one campus, which explains why the percentages don’t add up to 100.

The district already has 104 homes at CSM and Canada for faculty, but student housing has been an interest of the board.

Of the students polled, 92% said it’s important for the district to offer housing to retain students.

According to Scion’s report, 40% of students have considered leaving the district because of the cost of housing in the area, and 7% say that they plan on leaving the district.

The report also gives an overview look of three options the district has for paying for the housing:

• a bond measure that property taxpayers would repay described as a “self-financing” option;

• giving a private developer a long-term lease for campus land, where the developer would build the housing;

• a partnership between the college district and a developer.

The “self-financing” option would cost the least and give the district the most amount of control over the project, but it has the highest risk. Having an outside developer come in would result in the highest cost to students paying rent, the district would have less control over the project, but have less risk associated, according to Scion’s report.

A public-private partnership, in which both sides create a tax-exempt corporation to build the housing, would be the middle ground between the aspects of cost, control and risk, the report said.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the report, the meeting can be accessed via Zoom at or by calling 1-669-900-9128 and using webinar ID: 953 0222 0282.


  1. “Since 1999, Scion Advisory Services has been the sector’s most trusted adviser, collaborating with clients on over 220 campuses and counting. Our team combines decades of experience in all aspects of campus housing: residential life administration, real estate finance, program and asset management, plus practical knowledge from the ownership and management of over 58,200 student beds. Our mission is to empower our clients to enhance the residential experience of every student.” … I wonder how many times Scion has advised colleges NOT to build housing?

    Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District. [email protected]  LinkedIn:

  2. I wonder if this is like the BIG PLANS the District had for CSU-Cañada for which it created the job of Chancellor Emeritus for Ron Galatolo to oversee (he has been on paid administrative leave for over a year)? The data provided to Senator Hill and Assemblymember Mullin was flawed and misleading – besides the statistics not addressing the issue, the claim that students were “denied access” to CSU without a branch in San Mateo County was bogus. No evidence, except anecdotal comments, were presented to make that case…. When CSU conducted a thorough feasibility study, the need in the county ranked low compared to other regions. 

    While Scion Advisory conducted a needs assessment about housing, I for one would like to see the methodology. Need and feasibility are not identical. Frankly, building brick and mortar solutions is old school. Can’t the District be more creative? I know the District likes to put bond measures to the voters and make pretty buildings.

    The graduation rate for first-time, full-time students is only 18% within three years for a two-year degree. This is half the rate in comparison to national statistics for community colleges. Will building dorms help students to graduate? How about focusing on improving SMCCCD’s educational mission first?

  3. So many of these young people live at home with mom and dad. Maybe they want to move out, but we shouldn’t spend tax dollars or give away land to developers because they don’t want to live with their parents any more.

  4. Speaking about housing, I believe Ron Galatolo will soon be lodged in some public housing in Redwood City, the McGuire Correctional Facility.

  5. This project sounds like something Galatolo would totally direct – big bucks into construction and…who knows where else. Without him, are they still going to do it? What is going on with the DA’s case against him?

  6. This does seem like a Galatolo scheme with the puppets in place on the Board, at the District Office and on the campuses to carry it out, unless taxpayers unite and stop this misuse of our tax dollars. We have heard Galatolo s daughter even works for one of the construction companies. District Attorney Wagstaffe, please hold these in power who are operating this establishment accountable and give us our tax dollars back.

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