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As Sarasota-Manatee’s first dorm applications open, are students ready to commit?

building of sarasota-manatee dorms, bare concrete
Students said the dorms will improve the college experience at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. ORACLE PHOTO/ARIANNA RENICK

Senior healthcare major Jazlynn Marie said the addition of on-campus housing for Sarasota-Manatee students will bring new experiences and change the culture of the campus.

“It will bring in more students, allow for more events, and make the Sarasota campus more well-known,” she said.

Related: First Sarasota-Manatee residence hall enters new construction stage, chancellor says

The 100,000-square-foot housing and student center building is expected to open in fall 2024, according to a March Oracle article. The upper floors will house around 200 residents and the lower floors will offer a student center, bookstore, dining facilities, meeting rooms and other amenities.

As the new dorm begins to accept its first housing applications,  The Oracle talked to Sarasota-Manatee students on whether they plan to commit to on-campus living. 

For Marie, the project had been a long time coming as both St. Pete and Tampa have their own dorms. She said it will make more students consider attending the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said the lack of housing on campus has deterred potential students from attending the campus, according to an August Oracle article

“We would have a lot of students that would stop by and say ‘Oh gosh, I’d really love to come to USF Sarasota-Manatee. Where’s your residence hall?’” she said. “We’d say, ‘We don’t have any,’ and they’d leave.”

Holbrook expects to fill all 200 available beds, according to the article.                                     

Freshman psychology major Tatiana Clegg said she doesn’t think the on-campus housing will have a significant impact on campus culture. 

“I think that it will attract more students, but I don’t think it’s going to be a lot. I think a lot of people choose Tampa or St. Pete because of the culture differences,” she said.

Clegg said she thinks students at the Tampa and St. Pete campuses care more about sports and partying, but there’s a greater focus on academics among Sarasota-Manatee students.

After 17 years without a student dorm, Holbrook said it was time for the campus to grow by offering a typical college experience. 

“I still think we’re gonna get new numbers of students. I think Tampa is very anxious also to see that we fill our numbers and will help us so I think we’re very hopeful,” Holbrook said in the article.   

Related: BOG approves first Sarasota-Manatee residence hall

Clegg chose not to live on campus because of the cost of the dorms. 

Suite (double) beds will cost $1,297 per month. Two bedroom apartment style accommodations will cost $1,648 per month, with the four bedroom option going for $1,505 per month, according to a September Oracle article

St. Pete’s dorms range from $763 to $1,220 per month and Tampa beds range from $768 to $1,533 per month. 

Clegg said the only way living in a dorm would be feasible is if she was an RA because she would receive free housing. However, she was not able to take the job to focus on her classes.

Despite not being able to live on-campus, she said she understood the high cost.

“Housing is so limited and there may be a high demand for it since it’s the only way for students from other states or even other parts of Florida [to attend our campus],” Clegg said.

Freshman psychology major Britlee Yant said the proximity to the beach, amenities and quality of the new dorms justified the increased price. 

However, Yant said the cost kept her from moving into a dorm because she would rather commute and save money.

Off-campus apartments near the Sarasota-Manatee campus ranged from roughly $750 to $1,700 per room, according to USF off-campus student housing suggestions

Other students, such as junior interdisciplinary social science major Nicolaas Altizer, were not deterred by the cost.

Altizer said he is planning to live in the Sarasota-Manatee dorms because it will be easier for him to get to his classes. He also said it will be neat to be one of the first students to live on campus.

“Plus, I imagine the housing here is going to be really nice mainly because it’ll be new,” he said. 

Despite the cost, Yant agreed the addition of dorms to the campus would increase its appeal.

“I think the reason our campus is so unknown and quiet is because it doesn’t provide housing, so students automatically cross it off their list,” Yant said. “The addition of dorms will make USF Sarasota-Manatee way more appealing.”