College speaks of student housing needs, new president search

Residence at 98 per cent capacity, large percentage of international students; job posting for new college president to be ready by December or January

Efforts to meet student housing needs at Sault College have turned out well, the college’s board of governors was told at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday.

“We’re happy to report our residence is at 98 per cent capacity this year,” said Matt Trainor, Sault College director of student services.

“One of the nice features we have this year is such a diverse group of students in the building, having 26 per cent international and 74 per cent domestic.”

The international figure of 26 per cent is high considering that a college residence is not the traditional first choice for international students, Trainor told the board.

Trainor said the college is also providing temporary accommodation for students on an emergency basis in “a couple of spaces” that the postsecondary school has designated to help students who have short-term needs.

“We can put them in a safe place for a few days or even a couple of weeks.”

Trainor attributed high occupancy of Sault College’s student residence to housing outreach, early bird housing applications filling up quickly this year and a strong spring and summer occupancy that carried over into the fall.

“We do run a profit within the facility,” Trainor told the board after maintenance and repair costs, utility costs, security and other expenses are paid for.

As far as off-campus housing for students is concerned, Trainor said the college has worked on developing relationships with landlords, providing them with information sessions to get them interested in renting properties they own or renting spaces in their own homes, connecting students directly with landlords and adding a dedicated staff member to the school’s housing team to work with landlords and students directly.

Trainor said the Places4Students website has been a handy tool to assist students in finding off-campus housing.

“All of that has been important in order for us to have more beds available for students in the community,” Trainor said.

Trainor told the board that educational material on avoiding landlord scams has been made available along with information on tenant rights, that help is available for students to secure and negotiate housing and in finding family friendly homes, that local hotels serve as emergency rooms if necessary when students are arriving and that the college’s Student Job Center helps them find jobs close to their rental address.

“The challenge that we’re hearing from some is that they need to be able to get to work on evenings and weekends, so we want to be able to find jobs for them within the areas of the city they’re living in. So we’re working in partnership with the Job Center and Sault Ste. Marie Transit Services to address those needs the best we can,” Trainor said.

Trainor said the college has successfully met student housing needs for the fall of 2022 and is confident about fulfilling winter housing needs as they arise.

Trainor said 98 per cent of respondents in a student housing survey stated their current housing is ‘fair to excellent.’

“A very low percentage of students indicated they wanted to move, but if they did, they knew who to contact.”

In other news from Thursday’s board meeting, board chair Shauna Hynna told governors that KBRS – a human resources consulting firm with offices in Toronto, Halifax and St. John’s – has been brought on board to assist in the search for a new Sault College president after Ron Common announced his intention to retire in September.

Nine governors will sit on the search committee.

Emails will be sent out next week to staff, faculty and board members, containing a link to a survey and inviting feedback as to what they want to see in the college’s next president.

A list of desired competencies and skills will be drawn up, and after meetings with the HR consulting firm, the college hopes to have its job posting for a new president ready by the end of December or January.

“We’ve got some big boots to fill,” Hynna told the board.

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