Many students are eager to move off- campus to avoid the high expenses of college dorms. While some dorms range from $2,000 to $3,000 a semester, there is a way to live on campus and pay close to $2,000 for a year. This way of affordable living can happen through the Southern Scholarship Foundation, or SSF.
What is SSF?
The Southern Scholarship Foundation is a non- profit corporation that awards students rent free housing through community living across Florida. It was created by Mode L. Stone in 1953. Stone spoke with two high school students who wanted to enroll into FSU but had no way to pay for room and board. He decided that something needed to be done because there were more students in the same predicament as the two boys. After getting them into the school he was able to gain housing for them in the abandon Dale Mabry Field and nine more males began to share the dorm by the of the semester. Professors at the university and prominent people of Tallahassee began to help with this new way of student housing until SSF was officially incorporated in April of 1953.
Currently, SSF has 27 homes on different campuses across Florida. There are three at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, fourteen at Florida State University, nine at University of Florida and one at Florida Gulf Coast University. To apply for the scholarship the student must complete and submit the online application and pass a short series of requirements that includes filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), having an unweighted GPA of 3.0, sending letters of recommendation, submitting an essay, and showing proof of acceptance into a university.
There are two all- female houses and one all- male house located on FAMU’s campus down the street from the apartment style housing of Palmetto South. These three houses are Florida Retail Federation Scholarship House, Zenon C.R. Hansen Scholarship House and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Scholarship House.
Each house is fully furnished and equipped with a living room, kitchen, laundry room, study room, and dining room. Along with workable appliances, each house gives the students a chance to gain leadership positions. According to Johnnel Markland, a second-year doctorate pharmacy candidate, and house manager of the Florida Retail House, there are seven separate roles that the residents can take part of while living there. “Everyone that lives here does not have a leadership position; however, everyone has an opportunity to get one. We have about seven officer positions that includes the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, two business managers, and a social chair. And then there is a house manager in every house and I am the one for my particular house.”
Honestly, is it cheap?
SSF is a rent- free housing facility, which means the only payments necessary are for utilities and food. Many of the residents spoken to claims to pay no more than $1,000 per semester in the scholarship housing, whereas the cheapest on- campus housing facility at FAMU is Truth Hall that costs $2,736 a semester. Students on this scholarship spends less than a student living in a dorm because it’s cheaper and an expensive meal plan is not required since food is provided. Troy Townsend, a fourth-year public relations scholar, went more in depth about the payment process that he and the other members in his house experiences.
“It’s rent- free as far as you don’t have to pay monthly rent, but you do have what’s called a house bill which covers food and services. So, when you initially move in you pay $300. Then about a month and a half to two months later you pay the remainder of the bill. This remainder can be anywhere between $500- $700. And with SSF you get so much more with $1,000 like a kitchen that has three refrigerators and two stoves, living room, cable, dining room, and free laundry.”
Reassuring this minimum payment for shelter on campus Markland stated, “The highest I have ever paid for a house bill was $925, so I never hit $1,000 yet. But the price fluctuates every semester because as a HM we budget how much we think it’s going to be and this semester my house budget was $870. So, before they move in they pay $300 and later after financial aid drops they pay the rest of the bill.”
The two required payments within the semester lessens the burden of stressing over paying for monthly bills. However, not everyone that comes to college receives a financial aid refund check but even then, there is nothing to worry about when living in any of these scholarship houses. “Although we have deadlines on when everything needs to be paid, the office is really lenient and understanding when it comes to money. If someone can’t pay everything on the deadline dates there can be a payment plan set up so, if you can pay like $25 a week they will help you as long as you show your financial hardships,” Markland said.
A Community Within SSF
On the Southern Scholarship website community is one of the five core values that they have. Within their community, SSF believes that building personal relationships through patience, trust and more can encourage each other to look forward to a positive future. The vision of the foundation is “More than a Scholarship… and Education for Life!” and the intense sense of community that is established within SSF gives this vision truth. Living with 16 other people has given many of the resident’s lifelong relationships and memorable experiences.
Freshman actuarial science student Emmanuel Damas was sold on SSF because of the similarities that it has with his home in Fort Lauderdale. “I chose to live here because saving money was a big part of it but on the application, it talked about how SSF was a family. And back home I have a big family so, I was already used to being in a family environment.”
Damas went on to say, “Spending time together makes us a stronger family. I try to come home between 4:45 pm and 8pm because at that time there are usually a lot of people here and it’s really funny. Whenever they’re in the living room, cracking jokes I like that because that’s what we did that at my house when I was growing up.”
Living in SSF for four years has given graduating senior, Bobby Washington, a bigger perspective on the positive effects that it has on the residents and the community. “Being here for so long I see now that it’s more about SSF than saving money. I feel like SSF is a symbol of hope to show people that there is a way you can go to college and not drop out and that there is a safe family oriented home. With black men, just being able to have us go to school, graduate and come back to give to the community is great. The more people we have getting accepted into school and being able to actually go to school because of this scholarship will benefit the community in the long run.”
The community environment that is established within SSF is not separated between each campus or city. According to Townsend, there are scheduled events that connects the houses on FAMU’s campus to the houses on FSU’s and many other campuses. “There are also houses at Florida State, so we sometimes communicate and bond with them and it’s always a good turn- out. Although we may live in different houses we all fit the requirements of SSF so even when we have an event with other houses from Florida Gulf Coast or somewhere else wants to meet, it’s a good turn- out and we all have a great bonding experience.”