With phase one of The Village nearing its end, USF is beginning a new stage of campus housing.
Beacon Hall and Summit Hall opened their doors to residents this fall. The $138 million project appears to be well received by most residents.
“This is the dorm everyone wants to come to,” Jorge Carrillo, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences and a resident of Summit Hall, said. “You’re with your friends 24/7 doing all kinds of stuff like ping-pong or studying, so you get the whole campus experience. I plan to stay on campus because it’s been phenomenal.”
Ana Hernandez, the assistant vice president of Housing and Residential Education, is overseeing the expansion of on-campus living.
“Students are very excited to be the first residents in the building, and they’re excited about just being in The Village,” Hernandez said.
USF is primarily a commuter campus. Hernandez said she thinks The Village will assist in the availability of housing to students and help USF move toward a more residential campus.
Phase one of The Village is complete with the exception of the new satellite fitness center, which is currently under construction. Phase two of the project will include three more residence halls: Endeavor, Horizon and Pinnacle. This addition will bring the total number of students being housed in The Village to 2,000.
“We are in transition still I think,” Hernandez said. “When phase two of The Village gets built we’ll have over 6,000 beds on campus, but when you compare that to 40,000 students, it’s still a smaller portion of students that will live on campus.”
There has been a steady increase in residence hall rates over the past two years. Some of the most dramatic increases of the past two years have occurred in Holly two-bedrooms with an increase of $1,648 per year and Juniper-Poplar Hall with an increase of $1,428 per year. Castor Hall, which is usually seen as a cheaper option for students, has increased by $1,000 in the past two years as well.
“We have been approved for a three-year rate increase and so this year is the second of that three-year plan,” Hernandez said. “I’m anticipating we’ll have some rate increase next year as well, but we’re trying to evaluate what exactly we need in order to accomplish the goals we have.”
The quality of on-campus living is expected to improve with these increases, according to Hernandez.
“We have raised the rates the last couple of years in order to be able to reinvest in the facilities and be good stewards,” Hernandez said. “We’re investing everything we’re getting right back into the student experience.”
The housing department is attempting to look toward the future and make on-campus living an integral part of the college experience, according to Hernandez.
“When you think of a commuter campus, usually people are just showing up for a transaction. They drive, they park, they go to class, then they get in their car and go home. What we’re trying to do is create a transformational experience. I think we’re on the right path,” Hernandez said. “There are sites in our master plan on the campus for expanded housing. We’ll just need to see what the demand looks like for us in the future.”
In the fall of 2016, about 70 percent of freshman attending USF Tampa chose on-campus housing. Even with the rising costs, new students are still drawn to residence halls as opposed to off-campus apartments.
In 2014, the National Multifamily Housing Council conducted a study on 165 college students at four universities, one of which was the University of Florida. They found factors like GPA, persistence, and personal and social development was not affected by living accommodations, but rather more by academic year.
Regardless of this research and rising costs, most students seem to have positive experiences living on-campus.
“If you want to be on campus since you’re busy with school and extracurriculars all the time, then [it] may be a good option,” Nicholas Fabbrocile, a junior majoring in integrative animal biology, said. “If you don’t have a reason to be on campus 24/7, find an apartment. It is indeed a cheaper option.”
Aside from convenience, there are other benefits of living on-campus. Cleaning services, safety and included utilities are often overlooked advantages.
Even with all the updates USF is implementing, cost is still one of the biggest factors students must consider. The reality for students is that there are more affordable, private and spacious apartment complexes off-campus.
Katie Preu, a junior majoring in elementary education, made the decision to move off-campus this year after living on-campus for the past two years.
“I decided to live off-campus because I wanted to live in an apartment that was regular size as opposed to a dorm style apartment,” Preu said. “I also enjoy the quiet space and living off-campus was more cost effective.”
Some students may argue there are just as many opportunities to participate in the college experience while residing in off-campus living.
Keondre Patterson is a resident at Summit Hall and a junior majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship.
“My brother lives off-campus and he still manages to do a lot of things, even things I don’t know about,” Patterson said. “I would like to move off-campus because it’s cheaper and I wouldn’t have to share a room.”
Students must decide whether the convenience and unique experience of living on-campus is worth the cost.
“It depends what income you’re in and what problems we have. For me, it’s actually been a fair price and I don’t see it as a bother,” Carillo said.
Additional reporting by Jesse Stokes