The number of FSU students living in dorms has decreased since last year, according to data provided by Glenn Cochran, associate dean of student affairs and director of Residence Life, and Dale Hamel, executive vice president.
The official numbers from the University’s Early Enrollment Report (EER) of the fall 2018 semester indicate undergraduate enrollment has decreased by 4.8 percent from last year. University administrators anticipated a 2-percent decrease.
The number of residents is impacted by the number of enrolled students – especially freshmen. The EER indicates there are 3,927 undergraduate students at FSU, compared to 4,127 from last year.
The current maximum capacity of the University’s dorms is 1,978 students, and the current occupancy is 1,829 students, or 92 percent occupancy, according to the University’s report submitted to the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA).
Occupancy for this time in 2017 was 1,920, and for 2016, it was 1,916. So far this year, there are approximately 100 fewer students than the previous two years.
Corinne Hall Towers has the lowest occupancy of all University dorms with a maximum capacity of 504 and a current occupancy of 387, according to data from Residence Life. According to multiple residents of the building, there are entirely empty wings on the fifth and seventh floors.
Cochran said because students move out every day, current occupancy changes must be captured in “snapshots.”
Hamel said money will be borrowed from trust fund reserves to cover the higher-than-expected deficit. FSU makes payments to the MSCBA, which holds the buildings’ titles.
For fiscal year (FY) 2018-19, budgeted payments to the MSCBA total $9.8 million, while the Residence Life Trust Fund budget is approximately $16.1 million, according to Hamel.
Hamel said, “We do currently project a deficit for this fiscal year of around $340,000, or 2.1 percent. This will be covered by trust fund reserves.”
According to Hamel, total revenue for FY 2017-18 was $15,621,326, and total expenses amounted to $15,614,083 – making net income $7,243. Hamel said this was a “good demonstration of our ability to respond to actual occupancy levels.”
Cochran said room and board rates usually rise every year regardless of whether there is a projected deficit. “If there is a surplus, then it goes into the trust fund reserves, sort of like a ‘rainy day fund,’” he said.
Hamel said there is a “long-term financing plan for residence halls. Some years, we have a positive net income. The years that we don’t hit the occupancy targets, we can have a negative net income.”
According to Hamel, the University is recouping some of these costs by selling double rooms as singles or decreasing the number of RA staff members to help account for the loss from unoccupied beds.
Hamel said “premiums [result] in additional revenue” and that “implementing cost reductions through consolidation of the available rooms” further reduces operating costs.
According to numbers from the FSU website, the standard residence hall rate for FY 2017-18 was $3,940 per semester. For FY 2018-19, it is $4,080 per semester – a 3.5 percent increase.
Hamel added the increase in dorm rates for this year is less than previous years. For example, the increase from FY 2016-17 to FY 2017-18 was 3.8 percent.
Hamel said the cost of living on campus is comparable to that of off-campus housing, where costs of maintenance and ongoing repair might be higher and factor into the price of monthly rent.
According to Cochran, consultants from the MSCBA are helping FSU’s Residence Life department to identify factors that impact student life on campus and its relationship to student enrollment and the number of campus residents.
Cochran said he hopes he will learn about ways to increase the appeal of living on campus to prospective students and current residents.
He added, “Ideally, we’d like to be at 100 percent capacity – not one over, not one under.”
Current occupancy numbers for this year contrast with past years, when FSU had difficulty finding adequate housing for all students who wished to live on campus. In September 2011, the occupancy rate was 104 percent, according to Hamel.
Senior Adé Lasodé, an international transfer student, said she attempted to find on-campus housing her first year. She ended up temporarily staying in a nearby hotel before eventually moving into off-campus housing for the rest of her time at Framingham State.
“They just took my money and ran with their story of, ‘This is a small campus and we don’t have a lot of housing,’” Lasodé said. She added she doesn’t regret her decision to live off-campus for the rest of her time at FSU.
Senior Mckenzie Cahill said, “I lived on campus for six months. … I don’t really like living at home and would prefer to be on campus or an off-campus apartment, but I can’t because of the cost.”
Despite the higher cost compared to living at home and commuting for classes and extracurricular activities, FSU students have cited convenience as one of the main reasons they choose to live on campus.
Senior Jace Williams said she liked it “because of rehearsals that go late. Then I don’t have to drive home.”
Williams added, “I also really like living on my own and being independent, and I’m kind of using it as a trial run for moving out of my parents’ place.”
Sophomore Tajianna Ledford said she was frustrated by the increase in both tuition and room and board rates. “I believe college is too expensive,” she said. “They charge us so much for our education to begin with.”
[Editor’s Note: Adé Lasodé is a staff writer for The Gatepost.]