Ever since I heard about Mitchell Technical Institute’s complex plan to get around state laws that forbid it from having dorms or student apartments, I’ve been curious about something: Why did our state legislators think at some point in the past that it’s a bad idea to let tech schools have dorms and apartments and, if there’s some legitimate logic behind those laws, why is it a good idea for MTI to do an end-around on those laws and build dorms/apartments operated by Puetz Corporation?
One of our reporters, Ross Dolan, tackled those questions for a story today. Turns out nobody really remembers why the laws exist, but Board of Regents Executive Director Tad Perry assumes that "it was the intent of the Legislature at that time not to make residential campuses out of (the technical schools)."
I’m guessing he’s probably right about the Legislature’s intent. And I wonder, by allowing dorms and student apartments at tech schools, are we taking a step toward turning them into junior colleges? Are we blurring the line that separates tech schools from state universities and thereby making them compete against each other for students?
Perhaps times have changed, and tech schools need dorms and apartments to attract students. Today’s story notes that when the laws forbidding dorms and apartments at tech schools were adopted, "The tech schools were serving students in their immediate areas," and Perry said "the assumption was that those kids, for the most part, stayed at home." That might not be the case anymore.
What do you think? Should tech schools be allowed to own and operate dorms and student apartments?