Elizabeth Warren wants to investigate Georgia college dorm operator

Two national Democrats have started an inquiry into a business that operates college dormitories in Georgia. 

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, sent a letter to Rhode Island-based Corvias Property Management, a private business that operates dormitories at several of Georgia’s public universities. Wayne State University in Detroit also partners with Corvias.

Corvias entered into a 40-year agreement with the University System of Georgia in 2015 to provide housing for nine schools, including Georgia State, Augusta University and Columbus State University.

An open records request from Georgia Tech student Kelly O’Neal unearthed a letter between Corvias and the University System of Georgia that observers said showed the company exerting pressure on schools to maintain full capacity in their dorms in spite of the pandemic.

In the letter, Corvias Vice President of Campus Living Chris Wilson said the company objected to potential plans that would limit the numbers of students staying in dormitories, especially at Georgia State University, where Corvias manages nearly 3,500 beds, according to its website.

Georgia State had plans to open its dorms at 75% capacity at the start of the semester, which would have caused Corvias to lose $3.1 million over the school year and placed the project in default, according to an internal Board of Regents memo.

As it turned out, Georgia State did not need to restrict its dorm population after dorm demand dropped, said university system spokesman Aaron Diamant.

Warren and Tlaib are seeking additional documents from the company, which has not responded to the Georgia Recorder’s request for comment.

“These revelations present serious concerns regarding Corvias’s role in addressing the student housing issues and funding problems that campuses are dealing with during this pandemic, and raise questions about the nature of its public-private partnerships with public institutions of higher education and their governing bodies,” Warren and Tlaib’s Aug. 18 letter to Corvias reads.

Warren has previously questioned Corvias and other property management companies with contracts to oversee housing for the U.S. military after reports surfaced that service members were being forced to live in substandard and dangerous conditions. An Army Inspector General’s report described problems with the privately operated military housing units.  

O’Neal said she filed the records request to learn more about the reopening plans of Georgia Tech, which does not contract with Corvias. She said she hopes nothing questionable has been happening behind the scenes, but if it has, she hopes the problems are fixed.

“It’s unfortunate that the only legislators who seem to be supporting Georgia’s students are those that don’t even represent our state, but I am grateful to both Sen. Warren and Rep. Tlaib for further investigating this matter and bringing attention to it,” she said. “As a young woman interested in getting involved with politics, it feels amazing to have the support of two well-known female legislators.”

Photo: Photo by Sheilaf2002 on Deposit Photos