USDA helps finance UMES graduate housing

  • Friday, November 15, 2013

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (Nov. 15, 2013) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week it would help the Maryland Hawk Corp. with financing the construction of apartment-style housing for graduate students who attend the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

    The agency's deputy secretary, Krysta Harden, visited UMES to deliver the news that the federal government had arranged for the university's private, non-profit affiliate to borrow $12.7 million in low- interest loans to launch the project.

    Chase Plaza is south of Princess Anne"We're able to get affordable loans at lower interest rates, and it'll make the per-monthly rent for the students very affordable," said Jerry Redden, who directs the Maryland Hawk Corp. "That's a high priority. It's not only the living experience, but the affordability of it."

    Construction is expected to start in December and the first 90 of 144 units could be ready for occupancy before the start of the next academic year in late August 2014. The housing complex will be built on 38 acres adjacent to U.S. Rt. 13, two miles south of campus in an area known as Chase Plaza due west of Washington High School.

    UMES currently provides no housing for its nearly 700 graduate students.

    "Housing is a significant decision - part of that decision (where to study) is choice," Harden said. "This allows the university to be able to be more competitive in certain programs and to allow more students to live right here, participate (and) be part of this community,"

    UMES President Juliette B. Bell said she supports the Maryland Hawk Corp.'s plan to provide housing specifically for graduate students because it will help the university grow its post-baccalaureate programs, especially allied health training and marine sciences.

    In 2010, UMES added a year-round doctorate-degree program to train pharmacists and this semester began offering masters-level instruction in physician assistant studies. Faculty in both disciplines encourage group study as well as work on collaborative projects, so students able to live near each other - and close to campus - will be an advantage.

    Sarah Abdella, a first-year graduate student in physician assistant studies, predicts her peers will embrace "having not to worry so much about an additional expense in addition to tuition and books and equipment, and whatever else you need for school. Housing should not have to be such a big burden."

    Harden acknowledged the public often views the USDA as "a department that helps protect our food supply and the farmers that grow it. What many do not know is that USDA is much more than that."

    USDA's Rural Development program "takes pride in addressing needs that are specific to local communities," Harden said. Somerset County, home to a public land-grant university, easily fits that profile.

    The Maryland Hawk Corp.'s mission is "identifying, coordinating, and maximizing the assets and strengths of UMES that will provide direct economic value to the region."

    Since 2009, Harden noted that USDA has invested in thousands of "essential community projects that have benefitted millions of rural residents."  In the past year, USDA made about 1,400 community facilities loans and grants worth more than $1.4 billion.

    USDA Rural Development awarded the Maryland Hawk Corp. a $7.6 million Community Facilities Direct Loan and guaranteed another $5.1 million loan