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New bill would ease tech college dorm building

By Paul Snyder

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A new state bill aims to take the financial burden of multi-million residence hall projects off taxpayers and put it on technical college students using them.

Western Technical College is in the midst of building an estimated $10 million, 200-bed residence hall for students. Under current state law, the college would either have to lease the land since it’s being built on city property or go to referendum to acquire the property since it exceeds the $1.5 million threshold required of technical colleges for new building projects.

But state Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, is pushing a bill through the Legislature that suspends the $1.5 million threshold and says technical colleges can use student housing fees over the life of construction bonds to pay for the building and its construction.

The bill’s reach may be limited for the state’s 16 technical college districts. Only one technical college, Southwest Wisconsin, actually owns a student housing building.

Milwaukee Area Technical College has no student housing and no future plans to build any.

Madison Area Technical College, meanwhile, is considering future student housing, but will likely pursue a public-private partnership, said Roger Price, the college’s vice president of infrastructure services.

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