About 40 USF St. Petersburg students are currently living in the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront hotel, down from about 50 students at the beginning of the semester. Placing students at the Hilton is part of the university’s temporary housing plan after it received more housing applications than it could accommodate with the 351-room Residence Hall One.
The number of students at USF St. Petersburg has grown over the last few years. In 2007, there were about 300 freshmen, according to Kent Kelso, regional vice chancellor for Student Affairs & Enrollment Services. That number has increased to around 500.
The university was able to work out a temporary housing agreement with the Hilton through to December. Staying at the Hilton costs $8.50 more a day than the price of the residence hall—about $250 more per month.
Last year was the first year that USF St. Petersburg had to begin a wait list for the residence hall. Because of the increase in the freshman class, students who did not turn in all of their housing application materials on time could no longer be sure that they’d receive a spot in the dorm.
“It’s first come, first served based on a completed application, and a completed application has to include full immunization records,” Kelso said. “If you submitted a contract with a deposit, that doesn’t mean anything compared to the priority of your contract until we’ve received the immunization records.”
Kelso said that a number of students may turn in their housing contracts and deposits early in the spring, but will wait to submit immunization records—necessary to be allowed to live on campus—until the summer.
“We give those students, sometimes, the benefit of the doubt. We’ll stretch it a little bit if they put in their application, put in their contract early,” Kelso said. “At some point we’ve got to cut them off if they have not gotten their immunization records in.”
When a student receives a letter from the university saying they have been placed on a waiting list for the dorm, the letter states that the student is not guaranteed a room and should look for alternative housing, Kelso said. This year, the university found that many students on the wait list were ignoring that suggestion, instead hoping to be placed in the residence hall once they arrived on campus.
But spaces were not opening up in the dorms. Usually some students that send in housing contracts will cancel their contracts, but not many did this year, Kelso said.
“At that point, we made a decision [that] we don’t want them stuck out in the street,” Kelso said. “We said, let’s see if there’s any place around here close where we can come up with some temporary housing solutions so that once they get here, then they can at least have a place to stay, and then look for a place or continue to hope a place comes open in the residence hall.”
Students at the Hilton have access to the hotel maid service and linen change, queen size beds, the swimming pool and other amenities. However, they do not have a kitchen like students in the residence hall have. The university paid to have a resident adviser stay at the hotel to help the students have a connection to the university.
The deal with the Hilton ends in December. Kelso said that the university will usually have 10 to 20 percent attrition—students ending their housing contracts for various reasons.
“We have 351 spaces [in the residence hall]. If we get even 10 percent, that’s 35 beds, which is almost enough for what I need to move the Hilton students back here,” Kelso said. “We’ll also be encouraging those Hilton students that they need to be looking for a spot in an apartment.”
The university plans to build another residence hall, Kelso said. The 200-bed facility would house mostly freshman, and include a meal plan with food services like a traditional housing set-up, different from the suite-style with kitchens of the current residence hall. Kelso said the university hopes to have the new facility open by fall 2012.