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MED’s First Student Residence

Groundbreaking on $40 million complex

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At the MED Student Residence groundbreaking October 28: (from left) Ashraf Dahod; Joe Fallon; Sherry Leventhal; Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87); President Robert A. Brown; Mayor Thomas Menino; MED Dean Karen Antman; and Catherine Spina (CAS’04, MED’05,’15). Photo by Vernon Doucette

Officials broke ground yesterday on the Medical Campus’ first student residence, an endeavor that will provide affordable housing for students who may face up to $170,000 in bills for their medical school education.

“This facility will make the burden of a medical education a little bit lighter to carry,” said President Robert A. Brown as a warm, blustery wind whipped the tent where city officials, trustees, donors, administrators, and School of Medicine faculty and students had gathered.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) called the construction “good news for BU and good news for our economy,” referring to the project’s 250-plus construction jobs. “Housing is an important part of economic development.”

Scheduled to open in June 2012, the student residence, at 815 Albany St., will be a nine-story complex with 104 two-bedroom apartments and retail and common space on the first floor. The school enrolls approximately 175 first-year medical students each year.

Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost, said the $40 million project has been in the works for the past five years, since the school’s advisory board decided to try to decrease the cost of attending BU’s medical program (among the 10 most expensive nationwide). Antman said student housing seemed an obvious solution, considering other urban schools—including those in New York City—have taken the same step.

Catherine Spina (CAS’04, MED’05,’15), former chair of the Student Committee on Medical School Activities, said newly accepted students regularly approach her during open houses to discuss a primary concern: BU’s high cost. “In order to remain competitive, BU needed to do something to mitigate the cost,” she said.

A fundraising campaign has raised $11 million of a $20 million target, to be used in part to keep the rents in the new building as low as $800 for some units. The University will also borrow money through tax-exempt, fixed-rate bonds, according to Gary Nicksa, vice president for operations.

Officials hope the low rents will be a major draw for medical students, who now face median rents of between $1,400 and $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,000 to $2,700 for a two-bedroom in the school’s neighborhood.

“During the second and third years of medical school, it’s so crazy,” Spina said. “Living far away is tough. Then add commuting time, and when you’re not sleeping much, it’s stressful.”

The advantages of the new residence aren’t just financial. Antman anticipates that it will also foster an “esprit de corps and sense of community” among medical students, who are competitive by nature. “A common living experience would make an enormous difference in the sense of camaraderie that the classes get,” she said.

Designed by Beacon Architectural Associates, the 86,000-square-foot residential complex will have a brick and stone façade and metal and glass paneling. Nicksa said the fully furnished apartments will be similar to the Charles River Campus graduate housing at 580 Commonwealth Ave.

“It’s really a turnkey situation,” Nicksa said. “You could come in from anywhere in the world and not have to worry about where you’re going to live.”

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

5 Comments

5 Comments on MED’s First Student Residence

  • Anonymous on 10.29.2010 at 10:06 am

    Harrison Court is not considered a residence? Or is this the first BU built residence on the Medical Campus?

  • lfriday on 10.29.2010 at 11:24 am

    On Harrison Court

    Harrison Court is an apartment complex on the BU Medical Campus, but it’s only managed by BU. The University doesn’t have control over rental rates charged, which depend on the market. This new site is the first graduate student residence on the MED campus completely under BU’s control.

  • Anonymous on 10.30.2010 at 10:56 pm

    The School of Public Health and the School of Dental Medicine also have students who have to deal with the stress of living on loans, completing school, sometimes working jobs, plus commuting. Each school is a part of the Medical Campus community, so these students should also be eligible for this housing.

  • Anonymous on 11.01.2010 at 10:17 am

    This is great news for BUSM students!

    It is so great to see this moving forward! BUSM students face long hours and lots of stress during their four years here and this will help to ameliorate some of it. Kudos to Dean Antman, BU administration and generous donors for making this a reality.

  • Anonymous on 11.04.2010 at 5:26 pm

    Students do not face “up to $170,000″ in expenses–tuition alone is $48,000/year and rising, so that’s basically $200,000 for four years. Add to that $12,000/year for rent and food (if you are living somewhat frugally, and not in a $1500/mo Harrison Court apartment) and you’re looking at $250,000 total debt for someone who is cautious about spending. It’s absolutely insane, and I know other private med schools aren’t much better. You can get a part-time job your first and second years (although it’s impossible in the third and fourth), but in my boyfriend’s experience, BUSM counted his income from working a TA-type position against him and removed the small amount of scholarship money they had awarded him based on that income. In short, I don’t see BU doing much to help students reduce their debt load, even if they choose to work while in medical school. Here’s hoping they’re serious about keeping the cost of this new dorm down…

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