Tampa, USF must embrace commuter image

For many years, USF has been trying to shake the image of a commuter university.

However, that may be even more difficult to accomplish now that Tampa has been classified as a commuter city, according to a recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau. Commuter cities, the study explains, are those that experience a boom in their daytime population.

“The concept of the daytime population refers to the number of people who are present in an area during normal business hours, including workers,” stated the report on www.census.gov. “This is in contrast to the ‘resident’ population present during the evening and nighttime hours.”

With a resident population of 303,447, Tampa’s daytime population increases to 447,498, or by 48 percent, according to the report.

Those commuters in the Bay area and the rest of southwest Florida see Tampa as a big city, the place to get a job and be part of a booming economy.

“The city of Tampa is an employment center for a very large range (of people),” said Jim Hosler, research director for the Hillsborough County-City Planning Commission, in an article in Saturday’s St. Petersburg Times. “But you don’t need that data to know it. You just have to stand over a bridge in the morning to see that.”

The students at USF are a part of this daily grind of traffic coming into Tampa, driving from places such as Sarasota, Brandon, Wesley Chapel and Odessa.

To decrease the flow of commuter traffic into USF, more on-campus residences are necessary.

USF President Judy Genshaft touched on this in her fall address.

“Over the past five years, we have increased the number of on-campus beds to 4,400,” Genshaft said. “In the coming year, our goal is to build enough residence halls so that all freshmen can live on campus.”

This is an admirable goal to strive for. However, in light of the new data from the Census Bureau’s study, University administrators should not be discouraged if USF doesn’t go from commuter campus to college town overnight.

Just as Tampa is a commuter city, USF is its commuter university. Like those who drive in to be a part of Tampa’s economy, commuter students at USF drive in to get their education at a major university.

Instead of striving to be like all the other universities out there, the University should be proud of what it is: a blue-collar school characterized by many hard-working students holding down jobs while going to school and fighting traffic every day just to attend.