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Empty Dorms Put Squeeze on Colleges to Bail Out Billions in Debt

  • Some schools may be on hook to help struggling private dorms
  • As virus spread continues, campus reopening prospects dim
Students walk past the Founder’s Library at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Students walk past the Founder’s Library at Howard University in Washington, D.C.Photographer: Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Empty dorms are putting pressure on U.S. colleges to help investors in the approximately $14 billion student housing debt market, adding to the strain on schools already reeling from the pandemic.

West Virginia State University, already hit with a 10% enrollment drop, plans to give money to a school foundation so it can meet its bond covenants for residence hall debt. A community college in Ohio is using part of a $1.5 million donation for a financially-strapped student housing project. And officials at New Jersey City University, which serves largely first-generation and lower-income students and has recorded years of deficits, are prepared to shore up a dorm there.