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UNF Spinnaker

What do students think of UNF’s 25,000 enrollment goal?

The University of North Florida Board of Trustees recently approved a new strategic plan, outlining a variety of goals for the university to accomplish over the next five years. Among these is a plan to grow total enrollment to 25,000. With almost 18,000 currently enrolled, this would mean gaining more than 8,000 new students by 2028.

A poll on Spinnaker’s Instagram showed the UNF community had mixed opinions on this change. The most common complaint was about the university’s lack of housing and parking to accommodate current students.

Although new honors housing is slated to open in 2025, no additional plans have been made for new freshman or upperclassmen buildings. This would leave about 4,000 students with access to on-campus housing.

With a waiting list of nearly 300 students last fall, some changes were made this year to ensure all students who filled out a contract could get a room. Many freshmen are living in triple-occupancy rooms and the upperclassmen housing contract closed as soon as it reached capacity in January.

Brianna Bogacz, a sophomore studying criminal justice, expressed her concerns about these ambitious new enrollment plans. 

“Unless the school plans on expanding the housing facilities or building a new one, I think it’s inconsiderate on the school’s behalf,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea as a whole, but unless more housing options will be available to all students, they shouldn’t be intending on growing the student population.”

Many students also wondered how this would affect UNF’s “smaller school” feel. Known for its small class sizes and quiet campus on a nature reserve, 8,000 new students could affect the average class size and atmosphere on campus. Students who chose UNF because of the opportunities it offered as a small, tight-knit school in a large city have expressed dissatisfaction with the Board of Trustees’ plan.

The Green, located at the center of UNF’s campus, is a popular spot for students trying to relax between classes. UNF is a smaller school than UF or FSU so students can find quiet spots across campus to study, read and hang out. (Justin Nedrow)

Another concern was the already long wait times to speak with One-Stop Student Services, who handle questions regarding financial aid, student records, registration and admissions. Students said they sometimes waited over a week for an email response and had to join a queue that was often several hours long to call or meet with a staff member.

Others mentioned this would lead to more competition for financial aid opportunities offered at UNF like grants and scholarships. Nyah Straight, a senior studying business management, talked about the added stress this could put on students. 

“As an out-of-state student who has repeatedly asked the university for financial help and received none, I can only imagine how many more people will be sold short of financial aid help,” she said.

There are many worries, but not all the feedback has been negative. Several responses indicated excitement for this change and the opportunities it could provide UNF. 

With so many large schools in Florida sometimes overshadowing the smaller state schools, this enrollment increase could boost the school’s recognition on state and national levels, potentially providing more opportunities to all students.

Spinnaker requested a statement from UNF regarding students’ concerns about the 2028 goal and received the following response:

“The University’s growth to 25,000 students over the next five years will be multifaceted and strategic. The increased enrollment is not based on significant growth in first-time-in-college (FTIC) students but rather on strategies that include a strong focus on retention and growth in transfer, graduate and online populations.”

“This year, UNF received $25 million from the state in recurring funds to help strengthen our foundation and prepare for this growth. An additional $34 million was also secured for building enhancements on campus. The University will continue to seek public and private funding and partnerships to support smart growth and ensure that students have the best possible resources, facilities and experiences to be successful at UNF and after they graduate. This includes growing scholarships for students and seeking resources to strategically grow and retain great employees, so students continue to benefit from engaged faculty and individualized attention. Over the next few years as the University grows, UNF will also be seeking input from students, faculty and staff about how best to continue addressing their needs on campus while maintaining that small-community feeling that makes UNF special.”

“With regard to One-Stop, the University is examining processes to make student interactions more efficient and working to enhance staffing. Additional employees will be assisting over the next couple of weeks, which is historically a busy time. It is clear that staff for student-focused services like this will need to grow as enrollment increases. Plans are already underway to move One-Stop, the Welcome Center and Student Financial Services to the core of campus next July to be more accessible for students.”

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For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Jeanne Gilbert, General Assignment Reporter
Jeanne is a general assignment reporter for Spinnaker.
Justin Nedrow, Photographer
Justin Nedrow is a Jacksonville-based photographer who started volunteering for Spinnaker in 2020 and recently graduated in spring 2023 with a degree in sports management from the University of North Florida. Taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos, Justin has helped Spinnaker reporters cover everything from sports games, protests, ordinary campus life and more. Photography is a passion project for Justin, one he started to meet new people and express himself without words.

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