Monday, August 10, 2009

Housing expansion essential to raising grad rate


Data from FAMU and State University System annual fact books shows that campus housing expansion is vital to improving the university’s six-year graduation rate.

Back when FAMU opened the Palmetto Street South (1993) and Phase III (1997) apartment complexes, lower division students (those with fewer than 60 credit hours) began taking heavier course loads. Each of the new facilities housed 360 students, which brought a total of 720 new living spaces to campus.

The average lower division student credit hour load rose from 13.9 in 1994 to a peak of 14.2 in 1997.

Housing helps students afford more credit hours by cutting down the cost of living. Campus housing rental rates are usually much cheaper than private-owned apartments. Students also save money by using campus meal plans and walking to class instead of driving. That leaves them with more dollars to spend on courses.

Since 1997, FAMU’s lower division course loads have dropped like a rock. The State of Florida required FAMU to continuously increase its enrollment, but the university did not build any new housing complexes for the thousands of new students. Housing is an auxiliary department that cannot receive state money.

The problem got even worse from 2003 to 2004. During those years, FAMU closed Sampson Hall (1938), Young Hall (1929), and Polkinghorne Apartments (1966). All those facilities were old structures that had serious building code/safety problems. The closures took away a total of 409 beds.

FAMU’s leasing contract with University Gardens and Cottages of Magnolia did little to help the problem of decreasing student course loads. The two facilities added 669 beds to FAMU housing. However, they were more expensive than the regular dormitories or apartments.

In 2003, each Cottages room cost $2,284. A single at Gardens cost $2,284 and a double cost $1,980.

In comparison, a single at Phase III was only $1,925 and a double was only $1,714. A double at Cropper Hall or Wheatley Hall only cost $1,517.

FAMU terminated its contract for Cottages and Gardens in 2005, losing the 669 beds. The leaser, Booth Properties, later sued and received a $1.5 million settlement for the remaining three years left on the contract.

In 2007, FAMU’s average lower division credit hour load was just 13.5. Currently, FAMU students usually take smaller course loads in response to rising college costs such as tuition hikes. Housing is critical to reducing living costs and helping students take heavier course loads so they can graduate within six years.

FAMU's current six-year graduation rate is 41 percent.

The Student Housing Comprehensive Master Plan approved by FAMU’s Board of Trustees in 2004 calls for the university to have a total of 4,231 beds by Spring 2015. The top priorities are: demolishing Polkinghorne, building Phase IV Suites at the former Polkinghorne site, building Phase V-B (south of Phase III), and building Phase V-A (south of Palmetto South).

Pictured: Polkinghorne Apartments, closed since 2004.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good reporting RN! This is a neglected issue on campus which definitely needs attention.

Anonymous said...

Since the state doesn't pay for Housing and Housing is an auxillary and the University just recently paid out a law suit and credit market is in a slump, how do you propose we pay for this housing?

Anonymous said...

This is a neglected issue in FLORIDA! I have said for years that housing is the essential key to graduation.! Housing should be covered by the state, the school, someone. I know for a fact that institutions that have decided to house their students get much better grad rates.

Anonymous said...

8:47

Don't know but they going to have to find the money if they insist on raising enrollment to 15k students. They don't have the housing for the students they have now. Last fall they was trying to put 3 beds in the Foote... Now they suppose to have more students coming in this year. I wonder what they going to do now with all these students cause we sure haven't added no more housing. On a side note RN what are they doing with Sampson and Young its been what 5 years at least of dead space. What are the plans for them cause I know they can't tear them down even if they wanted to...

Anonymous said...

Proposal: Students need to get a job and pay their rent. I know.. its hard to work and go to school at the same time... but some of us did it.


The tax payers are under no moral obligation to give anyone free housing while they go to school.

One of the most valuable life lessons that these children can learn at FAMU is that if you want to get onto the road to success, you need to stop taking handouts and work towards being the one that GIVES handouts.

Also: 41% graduation rate is quite good considering that FAMU has pretty lax admission standards. We give more people a chance. It should not be a surprise, or a "red flag" when a lot of kids do not make it. We are working for that handful of students that are denied an education at other traditional universities ... they are accepted at FAMU... they SEIZE the opportunity ... and they rise to heights that they or their family could never imagine....

That's why we do what we do...we open the door for all ... once they are in the door, it is largely up to them to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity ... sadly ... some do not.

Anonymous said...

Alumni can help pay for housing!Check out what Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt are doing. The graduation rate and those schools are great and attainable and sustainable. They are directly due to their commitment to housing and student life. http://www.bowdoin.edu/reslife, http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ResEd/main/Policy.php

Anonymous said...

Wow, 93% of Vanderbilt undergrads live on campus and 95% of Bowdoin undergrads live on campus. That really makes a strong point for more housing when, as you mentioned, those are two colleges with very good graduation rates.

Anonymous said...

11:54, You are part of the problem. You just don't get it. You don't mind paying for prison. Its not about handouts. It's about being a student 24 hours and not cheap labor first, part-time students. They need a 24hour experience. Better doesn't have to equate to MORE TAXES. go for a swim. We're here to contribute. Surr pays for you to be ANONYMOUS! Go FAMU!

Anonymous said...

So state PECO funds cant be designated toward housing?

Anonymous said...

No. PECO can't be used for housing. Housing must be privately financed. State universities typically use bonds.

Anonymous said...

9:57... how are you contributing to this discussion?

We need to get past this thing we do in American discourse where we belittle those we disagree with.

Educated people should be able to articulate their views and persuade people without resorting to name calling and personal attacks.

Educated people should be able to respond to honest disagreements without name calling.

Educated people should have some class.

Look at our current political discourse. There is none. Someone makes a proposal and if they are a democrat we blindly support them without asking any tough questions. If they are republican...we slander them and belittle their views.

That is not only dangerous (to blindly follow a messiah like leader)... it is classless.

Anonymous said...

who pays back the bonds?

Anonymous said...

FAMU would have to pay back the bonds with interest for up to 20 years or more.

I agree with 3:09 we need to have rational discourse where you don't attack those who in some sense disagree with you. 11:54 is not a problem. And it is some Sophia's choice between going to prison or going to FAMU.

Whatever the entrance requirements are at FAMU, FAMU is an opportunity for life success maybe for people of merger circumstances, one of the few available and people need to make whatever sacrifices necessary to seize those opportunities and make the best of them.

Anonymous said...

3:09, you belittled FAMU! Go sit! This is not America, this is RATTLERNATION!

Anonymous said...

Back to the topic at hand, 3:09. Not your feelings. My comment was not remotely a dis to you or cour comment. It was an attempt to show how staying the course and claiming that there is nothing more to do than dig in and do it like you did-solves VERY LITTLE. We lose more students because of housing than ANY other reason. You focus on the few who have rims. Then you tell is that the students are basically "2's" and we should be excited and proud of a 41% rate of graduation. I hope you're not an educator. I value your veiw, but don't expect me to praise it. It's more of the same. A traditional bandage. Smh, American discourse. Don't go there. House our Rattlers.

Anonymous said...

You said it I didn't. CLASS hmm.

Anonymous said...

8:19, Thank you for noticing the connection between housing and student life with the over all greatness of the University on MULTIPLE fronts. I know several who have been molded by those schools and they admire FAMU. They do so because they recognize how much a University means to its students and alumni. Just like the media story from RN, we do it now with LUCK. Let's do this right Rattlers. Our students, University and State depend on it. Despite the naysayers. GO FAMU!

Anonymous said...

Long overdue...Sampson and Young Halls and Polkinghorne Village are in desperate need of a much needed overhaul and I honestly believe this will assist in overall student enrollment. Maybe even increase the morale on campus as well.

Anonymous said...

Definitely. Especially the MALE population. Because of the loss of beds, there is much less participation.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can engage Habitat for Humanity and have FAMUans renovate surrounding houses for housing credit. That way we create better community ties and yeild housing for the students. I'm sure some sort of partnership for Tallahassee and FAMU can be attained.

Anonymous said...

I like the habitat idea. Get the students to help build their own dorms. How cool would that be?

You want affordable/free housing? Come pick up a hammer.

I like it.

I think it would get a lot of support from the community - and it would silence those who are always accusing us of looking for a handout.

Anonymous said...

Polkinghorne.....those were the days....they didn't even tell us about bringing your own AC unit.

I immediately began the process to transfer to Michigan State (which had an offered to pay about half my way).....luckily, I decided to stay after I got acquainted with SBI.

Anonymous said...

1:49, You've hit the nail on the head. I'd be down for it as a student.

Anonymous said...

1:52, I'm happy you stayed! I visited Indiana University and many students were shocked that they didn't have central air and really didn't understand. In fact a doctor's note was required to put in one of your own. Awesome school though. The students were housed and happy otherwise.