Rendering courtesy of University Housing

Shelley Westerson

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 4. It was deleted during our website crash.

Concerns were raised when Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong was quoted in a Mustang News article early last year saying he had plans to make on-campus housing a requirement for first and second-year students.

Since then, questions are circulating about whether or not living on campus will be mandatory for half the student body.

“That’s absurd. I hated every second of living on campus,” psychology senior Rebekah Shade said. “If that had been a requirement when I started, I would have been forced to leave Cal Poly after my first year. My sanity would not have lasted two years of that.”

The concerns started with the idea of Student Housing South, a project that will be built on the G-1 and R-2 parking lots to house an additional 1,400 students.

Preston Allen, the executive director of University Housing, set the record straight, saying, “Students will not be forced to live on campus,” regardless of what Armstrong may have said. The project will make more housing available but not force people to live in it.

“The goal is to make housing guaranteed, not mandatory,” he said.  “Since we built Poly Canyon Village, we made a promise to first-year students that if they applied to live on campus again they would have guaranteed housing, but with the large influx of freshmen, we are not able to guarantee that housing anymore.”

According to Allen, when parents and future students visit Cal Poly, they look for required housing because if housing is required, it means it is guaranteed. The message he is trying to send is that you are not forced to live here, but if you decide you want to you absolutely will be able to for your first two years of college.

“Studies show that if a student doesn’t have to interrupt their focus going from year one to two, they maintain a stronger focus going into years three and four,” he said.

The market research conducted by administration found that there is a large demand for on-campus housing. With increasing freshman enrollment each year, Cal Poly expects to have about 12,000 students living in residence halls or apartments by Fall 2017. Right now there are less than 7,000 beds available in on-campus residence halls and apartments. The Student Housing South Project is expected to fill that need, as it will free up housing for freshman by providing second-years with housing.

Right now, about 1,800 sophomores live on campus. That number is expected to double by Fall 2017 if 95 percent of students plan to live on campus. The idea is to make Cal Poly a more residential campus where students want to live on campus, so a majority of them do. Not one where students are forced to live on campus.  Housing is not necessarily mandatory even for freshmen.

“There are always exceptions,” Allen said. “For instance, if the student is local and they choose to live at home. We house 99 percent of the freshmen, so for us, to make housing mandatory would not serve a purpose.”

Allen says that the new project is not about money. Basically, what they will take in rent from students will go right back into the project since none of the funding comes from the state. The total project cost is about $198 million, and 99 percent of that revenue will initially come from bonds. The future rent is what pays for the debt service of the bond.

“I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a great addition to the campus,” Facilities Planning Project Manager Annie Rendler said. “If I was a student coming back to campus, I would be thrilled to be living there because there are a lot of great components that I think students will find exciting.”

The design for Student Housing South has accommodations for a coffee shop, community room, outdoor grass amphitheater and sand volleyball court. Allen says the goal of officials is to make Cal Poly even more of a campus community. It is a place he expects students will want to live. They envision it being a place where people mostly live on campus and love it.

“I think there are benefits all the way around,” ASI President Joi Sullivan said. “Creating spaces where students want to live and be a part of this community is the ideal situation. Hopefully, as Cal Poly continues to look in the direction of potentially more housing, that’s a mentality that would be really good.”

Come Fall 2018, Cal Poly expects to have 65 percent of the student population in on-campus housing. With Student Housing South, there will be the room to guarantee housing to all first- and second-years. Sophomores will have two options: live on campus or find something off campus. Either way, it will be their decision.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that there was expected to be 12,000 incoming freshmen in Fall 2017. Rather, that is the expected demand of student housing.

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