Freshman first year housing to be required at USF

Two freshman students, Galvin Duncan (front) and Deanna Fowler (back), study in Beta Hall. ORACLE PHOTO/DAVID RICE

Depending on where they are from, freshmen entering USF for the first time in Fall 2009 may have to live on campus for their first year.

A new proposition under consideration by administrators would require all freshmen from outside the Tampa area to live in a residence hall for at least their first full year of classes.

It would require all first-year single students under the age of 21 from outside Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties to live on campus, barring military or other exceptions.

Officials anticipate the policy to boost the resident population by about 500 students, but not until the new 1,000-bed Magnolia Residence Hall opens in 2009.

The proposal, which will be presented to a Board of Trustees workgroup in early November, is aimed at raising grade point averages while improving student involvement and retention rates.

“All indicators are that students that are residents at a university are more academically successful, engaged and connected,” said Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield.

Freshmen living in Beta Hall, a freshman-only residence hall and home to the First Year Experience said they are already experiencing the benefits of living on campus.

“A lot of us are in the same type of classes and it really helps to form study groups in the same hallway,” said freshman Brittney Warren. “We have a lot of activities here – our RA is very involved and you’re able to meet a lot of new people.”

The move comes as part of the University’s five-year plan, which boasts the explicit aim of joining the prestigious, by-invitation-only Association of American Universities.

The University of Florida is the only state school with AAU membership.

According to Besterfield, the increase in graduation and retention rates offered by a higher residential population will help USF achieve its goal of becoming Florida’s second AAU University.

One of the goals in USF’s plan is to become classified as a Carnegie Institute “Primarily Residential.” To achieve this, 25 percent to 49 percent of the University’s degree seeking undergraduates would be required to live on campus.

No other school in the State University System has this classification.

USF opened its first living learning communities in existing residence halls this fall. These centers group freshmen pursuing the same degree path in rooms on the same floor. The communities have live-in advisers, in-facility classrooms and sponsor parties and events for the freshmen.

“The business (living learning center) is already asking for another floor or two next year, and I anticipate the others will, too,” Director of Residence Services Tom Kane said.

While most of USF Tampa’s 38,000 students live close to school, only about 4,400 live on campus.

Kane said he hopes the policy will help the campus become “the place to live.” As more freshmen move into residence halls, it will become a rite of passage for USF students, he said.

Criminology freshman Shaniqua Brown said she felt living on campus made it easier to make friends and get used to collegiate life.

“I think for the first year, it’s good to live on campus because you’ll get familiar with the campus really easy,” she said. “It’s easier to participate, to get to know more people.”

Coupled with the new $64 million Marshall Student Center – slated to open by Fall 2008 – a burgeoning powerhouse football team and the living learning centers, Kane said he hopes the new policy will change the environment on campus.

“Living on campus will become the place to be,” he said.

Joshua Neiderer can be reached at (813) 974-5190 or Anna Peters contributed to this report.