Six state-owned universities in Pennsylvania are handing residence halls and planned garden-style apartments over to private developers early this year, says Donald Sheaffer, the university system's assistant vice chancellor for facilities management. The state's higher-education officials sought developers for bidding, design work, debt financing and facility operation; the developer/operators would also be responsible for student safety and code compliance. Students would send rent checks, which average more than $2,500 annually, directly to the firms. State law mandates that the student fees pay for dorm construction. In September, Dallas-based developer JPI Apartment Development broke ground on a 432-bed apartment complex to open in the fall near California University of Pennsylvania on land owned by the school's student association, with amenities such as cable TV, Web service and a fitness center. The university system's Punxsutawney branch has a new 300-unit garden-style facility. Currently, about 33,000 state system students live in 136 residence halls throughout the state, most of which were built in the late 1960s and now require fire-sprinkler retrofits.