Every year during spring semester at USF, all returning students have to make a decision about where to live the following year.
For freshmen students, the decision is made for them by the Office of Residence Life. Almost all sophomores are required to live in campus housing, with the exception of those who want to file for a housing exemption and try to live off campus.
Students who are currently sophomores and juniors are not required to live on campus the following year and must decide whether they want to live on campus in Pedro Arrupe, Layola Village, or as a Resident Advisor, or if they want to find housing off campus. Although the decision may at first appear to be relatively easy, there are a variety of factors that can make it significantly more complex.
First, there is the Office of Residence Life, who does not make the housing selection process easy. Freshman students who file for exemption must provide proof of a medical condition or financial situation that makes them unable to live on campus. Once they provide this proof, it can take weeks to hear back from Residence Life about whether or not they actually received an exemption. By this time, all of the residence halls are filled to capacity and if the freshman does not receive an exemption, they will have some serious problems finding on campus housing.
This year, every sophomore residence hall except for Fromm, the all girls hall, was filled to capacity by the end of the first registration day. This means that students who were assigned the second day to register had no on campus options to choose from. Because the Office of Residence Life operates in this way, the Foghorn contends that sophomore students should not be required to live on campus until a more effective system of housing distribution is established.
For freshmen and upper classmen, the housing decision-making process extends far beyond Residence Life policies. Students must take into account the various advantages and disadvantages of living on or off campus. Financially, students will almost always save money by living off campus. Double rooms in each residence hall cost approximately $4,000 each semester and meal plans cost just under $2,000 each semester. If each semester is 4 months then students pay about $1,500 a month for room and board. Craigslist advertises average 3 and 4 bedroom apartments in the USF area at between $2,500 and $3,000 a month. This means multi-bedroom apartments would cost about $800 a month for a student with their own bedroom, plus the cost of food. Unless students get financial aid to cover their housing, they will most likely save money by living off campus.
Community involvement, safety, and accessibility are all reasons to live on campus. First, living in the middle of campus makes it easy to get involved. Club meetings, sports events, and extra curricular activities are at each student’s finger tips, which gives each student an opportunity to make connections and meet different people. This exposure is stifled to an extent once students move off campus. Second, living on campus gives students the ultimate amount of safety possible. The front desk of each residence hall acts as a buffer between students’ living space and potential off campus safety threats. By living on campus students avoid the risks that come with walking home alone at night. Lastly, on campus living gives students access to a large amount of amenities that much of the student body probably takes for granted. Laundry services within each building, wireless internet, flexi meal plans, and heating systems are all huge benefits for students living on campus.
Ultimately it is up to the individual student to decide which aspects of on or off campus living are most valuable to them. Some students many consider finances most important and choose to live off campus, while others may enjoy living in the middle of the USF community and choose to stay on campus. Either way, students should be given the opportunity to make these decisions for themselves and choose the living environment that will make them the most comfortable.