USF housing plans undergo significant changes for upcoming year
The 2021-22 academic year will likely be one of transition for USF. The University is returning to in-person classes, there will be safety-related campus modifications, and, of course, the new dorms will be opening. After more than a year of students being restricted to their homes and personal living spaces, the University is in the process of implementing a more comfortable housing experience for undergraduates.
Incoming freshmen are now guaranteed two years of living on-campus. In addition, new transfer students are assured housing for their first year. The construction of the new residence hall, Lone Mountain East, has enabled the University to offer 600 more living spaces on the Hilltop and reshape its residential strategy.
With the exception of some living-learning communities and transfer students, USF plans to make all residential halls on lower campus (Hayes-Healy, Gillson, Toler, and Fromm) freshmen-only. Living spaces in Lone Mountain (Lone Mountain North and East) will primarily be for sophomores. Juniors and seniors who are over the age of 21 will be left with the remaining spaces at Loyola Village and Pedro Arrupe Hall. Pacific Wing, located on Lone Mountain, will not be in use for the 2021-22 academic year due to increased housing capacity on-campus.
“This two-year guarantee and the aftermath of COVID has allowed us to reconfigure what campus housing looks like,” Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) Director Torry Brouillard-Bruce said. “We know each of those cohorts go through different things. The biggest push is really being able to create these hubs of support where everything in that area is designed for the unique experiences of that cohort.”
Freshman communications major Maile Lelaind said although she and her friends are excited to live on campus, they’ve been anxious about the housing process. “I think what’s stressing me out, and probably other students too, is that we’ve never been on campus so this is all kinda foreign to us all.” Another concern Lelaind shared was over the cost of room and board. “I do worry about my classmates who might be in tight financial situations. It sucks that the newest housing is so expensive, especially since a lot of people have been impacted financially by the pandemic,” she said.
According to the USF 2021-2022 billing and tuition webpage, if a student chooses to live in a traditional double room ($11,030) and pay for the standard meal plan ($5,110) it would cost them $16,140 per academic year. For comparison, the same living situation pre-pandemic during the 2019-20 academic year cost $15,410.
If a rising sophomore chooses to live in Lone Mountain East, an apartment-style double suite will cost $14,360 annually, while large single rooms go for a rate of $15,530 per year. However, because the new residence includes a kitchen for each room, similar to Loyola Village, the required meal plan is the “Flexi Apartment Plan,” which will cost an additional $2,000 per academic year.
These adjustments are part of the 0.9% increase in room and board rates as approved by the Board of Trustees for the upcoming academic year. Brouillard-Bruce clarified that the slight increase was ultimately the best way to yield revenue and pay for the costs of constructing the new residence hall.
Vice Provost for Institutional Budget and Planning & Analytics Jeff Hamrick explained in an email, “The President felt strongly that a total freeze in tuition, room, and board was not advisable given the university’s current financial challenges, and that [the room and board increase] was also appropriate, given the extraordinary support directed to students through federal stimulus funds, financial aid, and new resources such as the trustee-funded COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund.”
Unlike prior years, the more affordable triple room option will no longer be available. This is attributed to increased bed space because of the new dorms and to COVID health and safety protocols. “The goal with bringing the new building online, even before COVID, was to reduce the number of triples we had on-campus significantly, if not completely, depending on the total number of students who needed housing. COVID implications helped make the decision easy to go with no triple options, but it was part of our long-range strategy all along,” Brouillard-Bruce said.
For freshman business major Najashi Belcher, he is still weighing his options given most of his classes next fall are remote. The North Carolina native said his hesitance is due to the changing environment of the pandemic and the cost of housing. “It’s really taking into account if it’s feasible for me, if this is either a want or a need to stay in the new dorm,” Belcher said.
Meanwhile, incoming freshman Rahul Pratap hasn’t encountered any difficulties with applying for housing and said he looks forward to the collegiate experience. Though he maintains some apprehensions about safety, since freshmen will live in the traditional dorms, Pratap said the new two-year guaranteed housing is a welcome sign given the cost of living off-campus.
Brouillard-Bruce said they’ve seen an uptick in housing applications, particularly from rising sophomores. This may be attributed to SHaRE extending its application deadlines for continuing students by a month. Brouillard-Bruce also said housing requests from upperclassmen are down, but they expected that given the stabilized off-campus housing market.
Historically, USF housed around 2,200 to 2,500 students. According to SHaRE, with the addition of the new dorm and its policy changes, there will now be at least 2,700 students living on-campus, which is about 35%-40% of all undergraduate students.
“Next year really is an anomaly,” Brouillard-Bruce said. “But we can project maybe three or four years down the line — with the nature of the off-campus market and where it’s at — we might be in a spot where we guarantee housing for juniors or even seniors too. That’s the ideal circumstance.”
For the latest University information and updates about what housing and our return to campus in the fall will look like, visit USF Housing.
Miguel Arcayena is a junior politics major, Deputy News Editor, and a General Assignment Reporter at the Foghorn. He covers COVID-19-related campus news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.