College dorms to be run by private companies: Voters gave approval

By David Pendered

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to provide the name of the division of Corvias Group that will oversee some student housing in Georgia.

Georgia’s embrace of public private partnerships now extends to college dormitories.

A private company soon will be managing the Piedmont North dorm at Georgia State University, according to a deal approved by the Board of Regents. Credit: GSU

A private company soon will be managing the Piedmont North dorm at Georgia State University, according to a deal approved by the Board of Regents. Credit: GSU

The Board of Regents has approved a deal to put nearly 10,000 students into beds that by 2016 will be managed by one private company. Georgia already has partnered with privately owned entities to manage matters including prisons, distance learning, and roadway construction.

The board approved in November a 65-year deal valued at $517 million with Corvias Campus Living, which is based in Cary, N.C. and is a division of Corvias Group, based in East Greenwich, R.I. Terms are to be finalized next year. The University System of Georgia will retain oversight of the housing program.

One major benefit for the state is to be its release from some $300 million of debt. The existing housing bonds were sold by the state to finance student housing, and the state will no longer be responsible for the debt, according to a statement from the University System of Georgia.

Georgia voters facilitated the privatization of student housing on the state’s campuses when they approved a referendum that was on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Passage of the referendum continues the tax-exempt status of student housing even if private companies operate the facilities. House Bill 788, which was approved this year, provided for the referendum. HB 788 was sponsored by a bi-partisan coalition of ranking Republicans and Democrats that included:

  • Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), who served as Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leader until he appointed her revenue commissioner in November;
  • Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), House minority leader;
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who has been an influential House member since his first election, in 1974.
Privatized dorms

A private company is to manage the dorms at these institutions. Credit: USG, David Pendered

Regents approved the deal with Corvias Campus Living on Nov. 12. The company now operates housing in conjunction with the military and an array of colleges and universities, according to its website.

The parent company incorporated two entities in Georgia on Nov. 20: Corvias Group LLC, and Corvias Campus Living – USG, LLC.

Both companies list their home state as Delaware and neither provides the names of any corporate officers, according to papers the entities filed with the Georgia Secretary of State.

The regents began the privatization process on dormitories in April. The board released a request for proposals. In a statement released April 14, Chancellor Hank Huckaby said:

  • “Our goal is to reduce the system’s financial obligations for existing student housing and new housing development while ensuring students have affordable, safe, quality housing options.
  • “We plan to engage a private sector partner that can bring innovation and efficiencies to our housing operations while enabling our campuses to focus on their core mission of education.”

Huckaby maintained that theme in a statement released Nov. 12:

  • “Quality, safe, affordable housing for students is our priority. We expect our initiative will generate innovation, operating efficiencies and best practices in student housing to improve the quality of the on-campus housing experience for our students.
  • “We are always looking at ways to keep costs down and still provide a quality education and student services. The public private partnership initiative will help keep the cost of student housing provided by our colleges and universities low and affordable.”

The deal calls for Corvias to take over 6,195 existing beds and to develop an additional 3,683 beds in time for fall semester, 2016.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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