Find the right fit for your home-away-from-home at UWF

By Alicia Adams
Staff Writer

Students at the University of West Florida have many options when it comes to housing, both on and off campus. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and students must make the choice that is the best fit for them.

“On campus, friends are easily made with people you live around, feeling more connected to the school and activities,” said sophomore Alice Cordero. “Off campus is a disconnect from peers, but it’s also very independent and takes lots of responsibility.

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“Either way, you’re super broke eating ramen unless you’re lucky to have grants or scholarships.”

The University Commons and Student Involvement hosted an off-campus housing fair April 12 in the Commons Great Hall and Auditorium. There, representatives from several apartment complexes, as well as utility companies and banks, offered students information to assist them in their housing decision.

“On campus, the advantage is you’re protected if you’re in a dormitory and your roommate leaves you,” said Angel Burk, representative from The Crossings apartment complex. “You’re not having to [pay for] the other portion of the lease.

“Off campus, you’re signing a joint lease,” she said, which means if one person fails to pay their rent, and the remaining roommate can’t pay the full amount, both tenants have to leave.

Burk said most rental companies in the area offer nine-month leases, because they know students rent from them and need that rather than a 12-month lease.

Many students choose to live off campus because of the amenities offered at many facilities. Most apartments offer one-, two- and three-bedroom options, pools and fitness centers.

Another advantage of off-campus housing is the ability to have a pet. Jasmine Creek Apartments is currently offering students a discounted pet fee if they rent from them.

Carolyn Russell, leasing/marketing manager at The Next apartments, said scholarships are awarded to students residing there through the University Student Living Scholarship Program. This year, three students were awarded $2,000 scholarships.

Companies such as Hancock Bank and State Farm offer students discounted rates for signing up with their businesses as well.

Hancock Bank’s Personal Relationship Banker, Gina Thackerson, said the bank currently offers a student account, which is a free bank account for those under age 24.

State Farm agent Jordan Reyes said they offer affordable rental insurance to students for their apartments, as well as being able to transfer their car insurance when they move to the area.

As for on-campus housing, the university is beginning to offer more amenities to draw students in. UWF has housing for first-year students all the way through graduate students.

There are seven different housing areas on campus: two apartment complexes, and five other halls, which are a mix of traditional halls and suite-style halls. Students can take virtual tours and watch videos of each on the Housing and Residence Life website.

President’s Hall and Heritage Hall are the newest on-campus buildings. Some housing options, called Living Learning Communities (LLCs), are based on students’ areas of study and admission into certain programs.

Krista Boren, associate director of Housing and Residence Life, said they’ve noticed a decline in on-campus residents over the past couple years. “A lot of it just because we have the new apartment complexes opening right off campus,” she said. “Our apartments are still filling.”

Boren said that about 500 students can live in the two on-campus apartment complexes, Village East and Village West.

“We were running out of spaces for students that wanted that true apartment-living experience,” Boren said. “So, we’ve seen a little bit of a drop of maybe students that are moving off campus sooner that may have lived with us a little bit longer.”

Boren said the closure of the Southside Villages last fall for maintenance issues pushed a lot of people off campus.

“I lived on campus in the sorority dorms for a year and since have lived in a house off campus,” said senior Rachel Witbracht. “The dorm was disgusting and run-down. I loved the convenience, but there were more negatives than positives.”

Village West will be open for the summer for current students, and Martin Hall will be open for incoming freshman.

Historic downtown Pensacola has two houses that were renovated for UWF students working on graduate degrees in a variety of history-related studies. Currently, six graduate students can live downtown: four students in the McVoy House and two in the Quina-Singh House. Students have their own rooms and share the common areas.

Students living on campus can choose roommates by applying with friends or using the roommate finder tool. First-year students may have a harder time finding a roommate since they may not know many people, so UWF offers a social media site called Please Don’t Snore where students can create profiles and meet other students needing roommates.

UWF alumna Bernice Aponte said she lived on campus for three years and off campus for her last year.

“I would suggest to anyone to live on campus for at least one year,” she said. “It makes for the college experience, and it’s honestly not that bad.”

Housing and Residence Life recently started offering open housing, mostly geared toward upperclassmen. With open housing, students can choose to live anywhere on campus, with anyone they want, without limits on gender or class, Boren said.

There is even a new pet-friendly community on a floor in Village East, as well as two themed living communities: UWF Men’s Empowerment Network Community and Global Living Community.

“Those are just some new things that we’ve been doing, looking at what our off-campus complexes are doing and what students get off campus,” Boren said.

Safety is also an important aspect when it comes to choosing where to live.

“UWF police do rounds around the buildings; the RA staff does rounds around the buildings, and they are really quick to respond to stuff,” Boren said. “One of the things we have heard is our maintenance response is really good, because we have our own dedicated team.”

“I prefer off campus,” said UWF student John Link. “Mainly because I’m 46 years old, own my home, and would be looked at funny if I lived in the dorms.”

For more information on housing, contact or visit the Office of Housing and Residence Life.