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Potential Housing Game Plan

FAU has made no secret about transforming its Boca Raton campus from a "commuter college" to a "traditional university" and we've made tremendous progress on various fronts - housing, stadium, recreational, Greek Life, out-of-state enrollment. But nobody seems to quite agree on when we'll fully "arrive" as a traditional university.

Part of it is the number of students we have living on-campus. FAU was founded in 1961 (52 years ago) yet is often compared to places like the University of Florida, which was founded in 1853 (160 years ago) and has upwards of 9,200 students living on-campus, as well as Florida State University, founded in 1851, with around 6,200 students.

Some would argue that the traditional atmosphere is dependent on the number of residential students you have living on-campus because the more people you have around, the more it "feels" like a traditional campus. So let's break it down by university (with year founded in parentheses) to see where we stand for on-campus housing:

(numbers are approximate)

UF (1853) - 9,200 students
UCF (1963) - 6,500
USF (1956) - 6,500 students
FSU (1851) - 6,200 residential students  
FAU (1961) - 4,200 (as of Fall 2013)
FIU (1965) - 3,629
FGCU(1991) -2,700?
UWF (1963) - 2,000
UNF (1969) - 1,560
Florida Polytechnic (2012) - 0?
FAMU (1887) - N/A
New College (1960) - N/A

Note: It was difficult to ascertain some of those numbers (some Wikipedia pages are better than others) but they should be pretty close. And I'm not sure how many of those include Greek housing or not.

We're fifth on the list... which isn't too bad. And we're currently ahead of FIU, which is a win in and of itself. That we're behind UF and FSU shouldn't be a surprise, although the disparity between those two is pretty interesting. USF and UCF have a little rivalry going on there but we're in the same "class" as UCF and USF (if nothing else by the year founded) so that's probably the number we should be shooting for. I think most people would agree that FAU will probably cool off around 4,800 but could go to 9,000 someday, sure.

So that's one school of thought: that we should shoot for at least 5-6K and then we'll finally be a "fully traditional campus" because there will be so many people around. And to that end, we're in an ideal spot to do it because there isn't a whole lot of affordable off-campus housing right now, so we could continue to build dorms as long as the demand is there. The demand is a big key, obviously, because we typically think it's time to build a new dorm when our waitlist for housing hovers around 600. Fortunately the more dorms you have, the higher the demand goes, thus why we opened IVA in 2011 and now Parliament Hall in 2013. If that level of demand continues (or intensifies), we could easily hit 6,000 residential students in ten years.

Of course after you've spent $30M+ on a new dorm, you want to ensure that the occupancy rate continues to be high because otherwise you have difficulty paying down the debt. FAU has noticed that more freshmen and sophomores are interested in living on-campus than juniors and seniors, and that's half the crowd that you're losing right out the door. In 2012 alone you had 4,256 freshmen, 3,352 sophomores, 6,708 juniors and 9,020 seniors. Altogether you're talking about 7,608 underclassmen compared to 15,728 upperclassmen (graduate students make up another 4,605 students). See how much of a market there could be for upperclassmen (and graduate) housing?

The Housing Game Plan 

(Not an official FAU policy or proposal, just some ideas from your friends here at FAU Diehard)

- Now that the amount of beds on campus (4,200) roughly equals the number of freshmen, you can either flat-out require all freshmen to live on-campus or severely restrict the number of miles allowed away from campus to waive the requirement of living on campus. Currently that sits at 50 miles. That needs to come down to at least 30 miles. No one should be commuting 45 minutes each way to FAU every day, especially not freshmen.

- Next up (2015?) needs to be Greek Housing. The main factors to get this off the ground are cost and chapter grades, which is why it teeters year-to-year. one way or the other, in some form, Greek Housing has to come to campus. It already has a spot allocated for it west of (the upcoming) Parking Garage 3.

 - Let's say Greek Housing puts us at 4,500 in 2015. That's a good overall number for us right now. At that point we need to put into place new standards for buildings moving forward. We want to minimize the "sardine effect" and maximize personal space and comfort. Maybe we don't need to build dorms for 600 people; maybe we can scale them down to 300 and make upperclassmen dorms with just singles and doubles that have living rooms, kitchens and even (gasp!) porches!

- Use more carpet so it doesn't feel like you're living in the closet of an office building. With the lobby, use wood and bring in plants, put out a nice big rug and hang some art. Class it up a little bit so you don't feel like you're living in a dorm even when you totally are.

- Include small, 24-hour gyms as part of each new dorm. Most off-campus communities have these now, even if it's just two treadmills, an elliptical and some free weights. This will not be a threat to the Rec Center.

- Allow upperclassmen to choose their roommate, even if it's the opposite sex, and allow husbands and wives to live in these upperclassmen dorms. Off-campus apartments will allow this and to compete with them and keep students on-campus, this is going to have to be a part of it.

- Allow students to have cats. Dogs bark and require walking but cats live indoors and are completely quiet when you're not there or when strangers are over. Nobody in an apartment complex ever knocks on your door and complains about your cat.

- Change the meal plan requirement so that all residence halls with kitchens in the suite do not require a meal plan. Having a mandatory meal plan is a big deterrent for keeping students on campus, though IVA residents are not required to have a meal plan (a good step forward)

- Work with Campus Rec and other entities to improve and supplement existing recreational opportunities associated with each building. IVA has a pool that attracts people there. IRT has a tanning deck (and living rooms!). GPT has an Outtakes. Gonq has a BBQ pit. HPT has... Heritage Park? Not sure that's really attracting people there, though it is the closest to the Breezeway. UVA has, uh, a small gameroom and a sand volleyball court. Parliament will have the dining hall. But we can improve on these things, for instance: putting greens, themed lounges, indoor sand volleyball (with A/C), covered basketball courts (so students can still play in the rain or blazing heat), gaming rooms with projectors, music rooms with instruments you can check out and additional dedicated study rooms.

Some of these are obviously easier to do than others - especially if you're the one footing the bill. But the university will continue to build new dorms over the years and if you're going to spend tens of millions of dollars on something, might as well do it right the first time so you don't have to renovate it for millions of dollars a few years later, right? You can do it, FAU!

                                                                             GO OWLS!


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