To be or not to be on campus — that is the question

Mackenzie Kees

Opinions Editor

 

 An artistic mock-up of The Next’s facilities gives prospective renters a sneak peek preview of what is to come. Photo courtesy of Carroll Van Hook, regional leasing specialist for The Next apartments.

An artistic mock-up of The Next’s facilities gives prospective renters a sneak peek preview of what is to come.
Photo courtesy of Carroll Van Hook, regional leasing specialist for The Next apartments.

The percentage of students attending the University of West Florida from outside the local area has increased by 130 percent over the past decade, according to a 2014 housing study. As more non-local students flock to campus, the more demand rises for housing needs.

The results of the Student Housing Market Study, conducted by Brailsford and Dunlavey Consultants in 2014, confirmed that the development of additional on-campus housing is crucial in accommodating the projected increase in future students. The current percentage of occupancy for the nine UWF residence halls is more than 93 percent for all but one (Southside Village is at 83 percent capacity), according to the Brailsford and Dunlavey study.

While on-campus housing is offered, it is not required that students live on campus, even as freshmen. Ruth Davison, director of The Department of Housing and Residence Life at UWF, said in an email interview that “living on campus provides students a great way to live the collegiate life.” She said that she does not consider nearby apartments to be encroaching. “We provide a different experience to students who choose campus life over an off-campus rental,” she said.

Davison mentioned UWF’s specific themed housing, which is for students who want to share similar experiences. Other perks Davison mentions includes the benefit of living in close proximity of everything on campus and the ease at which you can meet new people and form long-lasting friendships.

In 2014, the UWF Board of Trustees approved an issuance of debt for construction based on the results of the market study. However, Davison said UWF is not constructing any new housing facilities at this time, because the debt issuance was delayed. This means many students will have to look outside of UWF for their housing needs.

One UWF senior who lives off campus, Cody Lonon, said, “As much as I love UWF’s campus, I enjoy being able to come home at the end of the day to a place that’s not completely immersed with school.”

Several student-friendly apartment complexes exist within a few miles of campus, but more have been emerging to accommodate the influx of new students. One new development, The Next apartments, located on Hillview Drive, is less than half a mile away from Jim Spooner Field and is currently leasing.

“University Student Living, the management company for The Next, believes in supporting the communities in which they operate student-housing properties,” said Carroll Van Hook, regional leasing specialist for The Next apartments, in an email interview. “The Next will also host multiple events each month to ensure a fun environment that offers opportunities for residents to engage with others in the building.”

The Next has already participated in several school events, such as Kappa Delta’s Spaghetti Dinner against Domestic Violence and Alpha Chi Omega’s Silent Auction.

As for the rumors circulating about a possible pedestrian bridge linking The Next to campus, Carroll Van Hook said, “At this time, it has not been approved by the necessary parties, although we are hopeful that it will come to fruition.”

With or without the pedestrian bridge, The Next will offer students a viable alternative to on-campus housing while also providing most of the same features, plus a few extra perks, such as a beach entry pool, a 24-hour fitness center, a tanning bed, study rooms and a clubhouse featuring recreational activities.

Davison suggests that students plan ahead for housing. “As soon as a student knows they need housing for the next semester, they should apply for campus housing,” says Davison. Students can apply through the UWF website.