San Juan College board hears update on student housing and possible new programs

Tuition hike approved, new online marketing and drone piloting programs under consideration

Sam Ribakoff
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON – San Juan College is moving ahead with plans for student housing in suite-style rather than single-occupancy units.

The college board also discussed establishing an online marketing program and a drone piloting program, and approved a tuition increase for the fall 2020 school year.

These items were discussed during San Juan College’s monthly Board of Trustees work session and meeting on March 3 in Farmington.

Schematic designs for the new student apartments were presented during the board's work session.

They showed two new designs for apartments; one unit style which will house four students in two bedrooms with four beds connected with a bathroom and a shower, and another unit style with four bedrooms housing four different students connected by a bathroom and shower. None of the units for students will be single occupancy.  

The college hopes this style of apartments will motivate students to make friends, form a community and be engaged in their school work.

The college still plans for the facility to house approximately 150 students.

“[These designs are] largely so that we can get students to engage,” said Executive Vice President Ed DesPlas.

Ed DesPlas

DesPlas projected that the apartments would cost students approximately $675 in rent per month for a single bedroom in the four-bedroom units, and $550 a month for a shared bedroom in the two-bedroom units. The apartments will be fully furnished and include laundry facilities and WiFi, but they will not include individual kitchen facilities. Instead, the complex will have a large communal style kitchen.

The apartment buildings are planned to be three stories tall and will be located below Sunrise Parkway and the college’s Health and Human Performance Center.

DesPlas stated that the first phase of the housing project, which includes an environmental study, a geotechnical study, and an initial schematic designs for the project have already been completed at the cost of approximately $75,000, but a resolution for revenue bond sales between the college and the New Mexico Finance Authority to pay for the construction of the project has stalled.

“[They] hit a sticking point in one of the resolutions,” DesPlas said, referring to lawyers from the college and the NMFA disagreeing over one clause in the paperwork.

DesPlas said he expects the disputed clause to be resolved within three weeks, and to present the final paperwork for the board’s approval by their next board meeting on April 5.

DesPlas is adamant that the delay will not affect the projected August 2022 completion of the housing project though.

Possible new online marketing and drone program

The creation of two new programs at the college, an online marketing program and a drone program, was also discussed during the work session. 

If approved by the board at their next meeting, the online marketing program would be focused on teaching students both digital and traditional marketing skills and connect students to local businesses and nonprofits in need of marketing help, according to assistant professor of business Annette Abend, who gave a presentation proposing the program to the work session.

Associate professor of drafting and geographic information science Brian Seavey gave a presentation on the possibility of a future drone piloting program at the college. Seavey talked about how drones are currently being used in film making, agriculture, real estate, development and locally in construction for 3D mapping of locations.

Seavey said the focus of the program would be not only on training students how to fly drones properly so they can attain a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to legally operate a drone, but to also encourage students to become entrepreneurs in how they contract out their future skills to businesses and other entities.

Both programs will have to be approved by the board during their next meeting in April, and then be approved by the state’s Higher Education Department before they can begin. 

Student tuition increased 

The board unanimously voted to approve student tuition increases for the fall 2020 school year.

The increase will raise in-state students’ tuition from $49 per credit hour to $52 per credit hour, and out-of-state students’ tuition from $155 to $164 per credit hour.   

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at