Dorm space going unused at NJ colleges

By Pat Alex

New Jersey’s largely commuter public colleges and universities made a concerted push over the last decade or so to make their campuses more residential, spending tens of millions of dollars on new dormitories and recreation centers.

But the economic downturn has reduced demand at some schools, leaving them with empty beds even as they continue to pay back the bonds used to build new facilities.

Ramapo College in Mahwah reports that 333 of its 3,019 beds are empty this semester; William Paterson University in Wayne also has a vacancy rate near 11 percent as about 300 of its 2,700 beds are unoccupied, according to the school.

The vacancies started about three years ago at both schools, just as the recession became entrenched and the number of graduating high school seniors began to decline in New Jersey.