End of first-year housing requirement looks to benefit students, as UNF officials eye housing expansion

Vice+President+Chief+of+Staff+Tom+Serwatka+Photo+by+Nick+Blank

Vice President Chief of Staff Tom Serwatka Photo by Nick Blank

Nick Blank

Video by Nick Blank and Jack Drain

After four years of the mandatory housing requirement, UNF officials decided it was time for students to choose where they live their freshman year, leading to the removal of the requirement starting in the fall 2017 semester.

Vice President Chief of Staff Tom Serwatka said living on campus provides more benefits to students, but they thought students and parents should be able to make the choice for themselves.

“It’s going to become more popular among students, so that they’re going to make this choice on their own, as opposed to us mandating and having teary-eyed people coming in,” Serwatka said.

Serwatka added UNF still heavily encourages students to live on campus. According to him, officials found research that students participate in more activities and develop more attachment to the university when they live on campus. Serwatka said students who live on campus have better retention rates and earlier graduation rates than students that live off-campus.

UNF has recently experienced a surge of freshmen, to the point they were being reassigned to upperclassman housing like The Fountains. In an email to UNF staff, faculty and students, UNF President John Delaney wrote that there were 400 more freshmen this fall than in 2015.

But Serwatka said more housing is potentially on the way. UNF currently houses around 3,700 students on campus. Serwatka said UNF’s goal is to reach 6,000 students.

“We anticipate that as we open the doors more, and become larger, it’s inevitably going to happen,” Serwatka said.

Land near the Fountains is the likely site for expansion, though Serwatka added all the details are subject to change.

“There have been various areas that have been talked about. One of the areas is next to the Fountains, expanding there and bringing another trail onto campus,” Serwatka said. “So there’s still room for residence halls to get up to that [6000 student] amount.

Looking to shed its purported status as a “commuter school,” the mandatory housing requirement was instituted in the fall 2012 semester.

“Driving into class and driving off-campus, you don’t get all the experiences that you do when you’re living on-campus,” Serwatka said.

While UNF hopes to increase the number of students on campus, Serwatka added there would be a drop, though he hoped it wouldn’t be significant. He said student choice mattered when UNF officials decided to strike the requirement.

“The executive staff talked about the advantages and disadvantages and said, ‘Hopefully we started a movement, let’s see if we can continue the movement on its own,’” Serwatka said.

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