Housing

Living on- Campus Without Spending a Fortune for Housing

 

Written by: Jasmine Glover

November 19, 2017

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Making the Move: Off- Campus Expenses, Experiences and Advice

Written by: Jasmine Glover

October 23, 2017

Going to college is like living in a world that has multiple worlds within it. There’s the work world that involves going to class, networking with students and professors, and gaining internships that may one day turn into a career. The social world includes free time for mingling with friends, going to various functions on campus, and enjoying the “college experience”. Then there is the clashing of two worlds: on- campus living and off- campus living.

Both worlds are needed to suit your well- being; however, living on- campus may come with limitations that will excite the off- campus lifestyle without revealing all its truths. After much research and interviews it can be concluded that the world of living off- campus is better than staying in a dorm.

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EXPENSES

Among the number of questions that are asked about making the move off- campus one includes: Is it cheaper to live off- campus than on- campus? When totaling up the various fees to stay in a dorm, a student’s head may start to spin out of control especially if they are paying with loans or out of pocket. One should take into consideration the cost of classes, housing, meal plans, mail, and more.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University student Akia Smith suggests that it is cheaper to live off- campus. “My first two years of college I lived in The Village (an on-campus dorm) and that was about $3,700 a semester. I also had a full meal plan that was another $2,000 along with buying books and a lot of other stuff. Living in University Courtyard is cheaper because I only pay for rent, utilities, food and gas.”

Although for some people it may be cheaper to live off- campus there are still bills that are needed to get paid and that can be a hassle too. The questions of how and where the money will come from must be thought about. Apartments that are deemed student off- campus housing will work payment plans with the student through a financial aid deferment. A financial aid deferment is a document that will allow the student to have an extended date to pay for their bills. However, there are some students who do not receive financial aid and must pay out of pocket for everything like Rhianna Salters who attends Tallahassee Community College.

Salter’s stated, “Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is cheaper until you sit down and really map out the expenses. I know that it is a big difference because when you’re staying on campus everything is paid at once. But living off- campus you have to pay in increments and now you are really seeing that you’re spending money, especially if it’s coming out of your pocket. But it is cheaper, for me, to live off campus because now I’m paying $3,000 oppose to $6,000.”

THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE

Coming to college many students here the phrase “the college experience”, but what exactly is that experience and can a student get it while staying off- campus? The experience could stem from the excitement of living in a new city, the stress of tackling multitudes of work at once, the happiness of making new friends, the freedom of being away from your home rules or the homesick feeling that comes after being apart from family for months at a time. Many students feel like they have gained a piece of their experience because they lived on campus for a year or so.

Smith stated that, “without living on campus I wouldn’t have known about the different events that were going on or the different organizations that I could join. Living in a dorm helps; but, it’s not something that I would want to do my whole four years of college because I wouldn’t feel the freedom I do now that I am off- campus.” Salter elaborated on this topic of freedom by saying, “I’d rather be off- campus than staying on because I really like the freedom that is given because if I really want something I can go out and get it. Staying on campus limits that freedom.”

Salter went on to say, “People say that when you go to college, that’s your chance to experience life and become an adult; but, I feel like you’re not really an adult until you stay off campus and have to provide for yourself.” Although there are many that have gained the college experience from living on campus there are some students that feels a void from this. Kareem Ross, a junior at FAMU, feels that he missed out on the “full experience” because he lived in University Courtyard Apartments since his freshman year.

“I think I missed out on a lot because I was off- campus three years. I think I would have joined more organizations, participated in more events, and met more of my professors even though I’m fully engaged in my work. I feel like if I would have stayed on campus I would feel more like a student because coming to my apartment right after school made me feel disconnected to the student life,” Ross stated.

NETWORKING

The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals. The act of networking and interacting with people are valuable skills for the college student to have when making new friendships or establish life- long connections. Living among other students in the dorm can make it easier to do this since the Resident Assistant, or RA, establishes a safe community among the residents to help those who may be shy or feel alone to branch out to other people.

Building friendships can also be established through roommates. In many dorms, the students must share a room with another person and they will see each other daily depending on their schedules. This, too, can help connect with others living on campus because both students can lead each other to mutual friendships that may develop over time.

However, making connections may not come as easy to the students when living in their first apartment complex or house. Salter stated, “It was easier to network when I was living in the dorms. Here you’re not forced to interact with people; but, in the dorms, you definitely have too because you see these people every single day.” Outside of campus the students cannot look for a RA to help with the interaction process with roommates or the people in the neighborhood. It will be up the them to use their networking skills to establish relationships in and outside of the house.

Ross views on networking doesn’t depend on if you are on campus or off, but on who you are as a person. He stated, “It may be easier but everyone isn’t friendly or interactive so you can’t base the interactions you have with someone from being on campus or off. It all depends on you. The type of person you are, like are you open with people or closed off? It all depends on your personality.”

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 ADVICE

Before making any decision, it is best to do research on the topic, develop a list of pros and cons, and ask for advice from people that have been in similar situations. Deciding to live off- campus can be tough. There are many factors to include such as paying bills on time each month, commuting from home to school, getting to know new roommates, becoming familiar with the neighborhood, and so much more.

Smith’s advice is simply to have personal transportation from home to school and anywhere around the city that you may need to go. “The best advice that I would give a sophomore, or anyone else, that was thinking about moving off- campus is to make sure that they have a car. Having a car will help you get to class on time because other ways can hinder you from getting there like buses running late, roommates with no cars or different schedules, taking Uber will start to add up and no one wants to walk to campus all the time. So, having your own car is very important.”

While interviewing Salter, there were factors that she desired to have known lot more about before making the move off- campus. “If anything, there are two things that I wish I would have known beforehand. One is that you really have to have money to the side to buy your own groceries every month because you need food in the house. And two, is that you have to keep up with the payments on utilities so that you will have a functioning house.”

Although Ross does not regret not being able to live in one of the dorms, his number one advice for anyone looking to live in an apartment is to first enjoy living on campus. “Live and create a foundation that lets you know the do’s and don’ts of college and what you’re good at versus what your downfalls maybe. Doing that will help you get it out the way early while you’re on campus because you’re learning yourself and it’s going to help you become more responsible quicker when you move off- campus.”

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Shutting Down Palmetto North

Written by: Jasmine Glover

October 7, 2017

With the accelerated increase of first- year students coming to Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, the unexpected restoration of Palmetto North was set to take place six weeks before the scheduled move in date. Yet, why was it closed to begin with?

Palmetto North is an on- campus housing facility that is located on Palmetto Street, roughly a four-minute walk to the main campus. It costs $2,719 per fall and spring semester and the capacity caps at 235 students.

According to Jennifer Wilder, the new Director of University Housing, Palmetto North has closed and reopened before. “It closed the summer of 2014 and reopened for the academic year of 2015- 2016- just 124 spaces. It shut down in the summer of 2016 and we brought it back up the fall of 2017.”

The residential hall originally closed in 2014 because of the decrease in enrollment and the new on- campus housing of FAMU Village, which houses 800 students. Vice President for Student Affairs William Hudson Jr. stated that the plan to close Palmetto North was reviewed and studied before being put in motion.

“The plan to close any facility is reviewed by housing and a determined by a housing study considering enrollment trends. At that time, we were experiencing a decrease in enrollment and the opportunity to upgrade to modern facilities was the hope and efforts had begun to obtain funding for a new facility. The Palmetto North location has always been a possibility, so those were the things that lead to closing it temporarily.”

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Although there was much controversy circulating Tallahassee on the health and wellness of Palmetto North when it reopened, both Wilder and Hudson affirms that there were no violations of health codes. When asked, Wilder stated that there were periodic cleanings of the building during the times that it was closed although there were not specific time frames.

The reopening of Palmetto North wasn’t an overnight decision; however, it was a response to the 500 first- year student increase that was expected to bombard FAMU. “Last year’s projections were that they (Enrollment Management) would need 1200 spaces. When they exceeded 1200 we took away some of the upperclassmen space that had been allotted, but upper-class students had not signed up for and we used all that space. So, then there was the decision on if we could open North and if so how many spaces would that be or do we say no and send people off campus? So, we decided to open North,” stated Wilder.

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Although there were hesitations to open the facility because of the fierce time constraint, the six weeks allowed FAMU to open only a portion of Palmetto North to make renovations. These renovations included: roof fixtures, the replacement of carpet with tiles, modern furniture, fixed and/or glazed windows, new cabinets, and other necessities that were dependent on what was found while cleaning.

For Palmetto North to have opened for students again there were certain fire- safety and environmental health and safety codes that had to be met. Key features of these health codes included making sure that there were up to date fire extinguishers in every apartment and to address any concerns with mold and mildew before the approval.

Amongst the many students living in Palmetto North, third- year Music Industry student, Dominic Green described the day he moved back on- campus as a bit chaotic. “I literally didn’t find out that I had to move into Palmetto North until the day I got there because I was originally set to move into Gibbs Hall- I stayed there my first two years. When I went to check in for Gibbs they told me that I was switched to live into Palmetto North. So, they gave us about a week and a half to move from Gibbs and into Palmetto because they were still renovating it.”

Although there was a lack of communication he insists that living in Palmetto North is very convenient. “I like the experience so far with living in Palmetto because there’s a lot more freedom, living space, peaceful, and cheaper because you don’t have to have a meal plan. It is really teaching me responsibility compared to living at Gibbs where everything is pretty much set up for you.”

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Hudson suggested that FAMU is trying to get opportunities for funding to enhance the residence halls since many of the current facilities are old. The university is currently exploring opportunities for public/ private collaborations- a way for universities to fund construction for new buildings. “We’re constantly trying to find new funding resources for improving on campus facilities. If we’re going to attract the best and brightest students, the need for modern on- campus facilities for students, faculty and staff are very imperative.”

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