Upperclassmen anxious as UNF restructures on-campus dorms

Published on February 19, 2024 at 3:14 pm

River Dodd has lived in the University of North Florida dorms since 2021. But instead of focusing on graduation next fall, the communications major is worried about whether they’ll have an affordable place to live. 

This year, UNF announced plans to restructure campus housing and how students apply for it. The news brought mountains of confusion and anxiety among students, especially rising juniors and seniors.

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“Someone just said, ‘Hey guys, you know about this?’ And then it just blew up from there,” Dodd said.

UNF offers seven residence halls to students with about 3,700 beds. In the past, four dorms were reserved specifically for freshmen and first-year students: Osprey Cove, Osprey Crossings, Osprey Hall and Osprey Landing. The remaining dorms — Osprey Villages, Osprey Fountains and the Flats— were for upperclassmen. 

Now, there is no “first-year housing community,” and all but one dorm is open to every student, regardless of their class. The Flats, effectively furnished on-campus apartments, will remain open to just upperclassmen. 

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The university also reshaped when students could secure housing contracts. Freshmen and rising sophomores could begin applying in late January while everyone else must wait until March 4. Housing contracts don’t guarantee students will have a bed on-campus, just that they can apply when applications open up. 

Dodd lives in the Flats, but upperclassmen at other dorms are anxious too. Grant Rogers, a rising junior and statistics major, told Jacksonville Today he’s worried about finding a place to live close to campus. Rogers doesn’t have a car and relies on campus transportation, such as the shuttles, to get around. 

Right now, his plan is to figure out some sort of Plan B if he can’t secure a dorm for the next semester, but he said others aren’t so lucky. 

“I do think that, in regards to having a family member in Duval, I’m a little more fortunate that some others may be, especially if they’re from really far out,” Rogers said. “They might have to either get an apartment for themselves, or may not be able to afford it and possibly drop out. It’s that big of an issue for so many people.”

The money issue

On-campus housing has always been available to students, but demand skyrocketed after the COVID-19 pandemic and rent rates rose in Jacksonville. In 2022, UNF made headlines after a rising freshman was left homeless a week before classes began, News4Jax reported. Last year, demand was similarly extremely high

The crux of the appeal for students in how much they pay. This year, the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Jacksonville is $1,278, according to

Given that the semester is about five months long, that would mean a student would have to pay about $6,390. And that doesn’t include other living expenses like utilities, internet and more. 

On-campus housing can be half or even a third that amount, depending on how many other students share the room. The fall 2025 rates for two students living in Osprey Landing is $3,151 each, or $2,717 each for three students. 

“I think there’s a misconception that we’ve over-enrolled students and that’s why demand is so high,” said UNF Housing Director Bob Boyle. “That is not the case. This is about local things outside of our borders, about the cost of housing and rental rates.”

A ‘moving target’

This semester, about 1,830 upperclassmen live in on-campus dorms. All of them won’t be able to return. This week, Boyle told Jacksonville Today, they’ll look at how many housing contracts the department took from freshmen and rising sophomores and decide how many they can accept from upperclassmen. 

That will happen Friday, he said. Housing will send an email to residents with the number of contracts they’ll take once applications open March 4. 

“We’re going to put out there and we’re gonna go, ‘We think we’re going to take 500 or 600, or 700’ or whatever the number is,” Boyle said. “And I suspect it’s not going to meet the total amount of demand out there.”

Whatever number that ends up being will guide the university on how long applications will be open, he said: “Once I see we’re getting close to the number we’re going to take, I’m going to have to turn it off.”

Still a few weeks away from when upperclassmen apply, Boyle said the university has received about 1,500 contracts, but that number is in constant flux. For the housing director, it’s a tough situation all around, he said — for UNF, for students and for their families.

The restructure of how on-campus housing comes as UNF tries to grow in both size and stature. One of the university’s goals is to add about 7,000 students in the next five years. 

From left to right, Jacksonville City Councilman Raul Arias, Jacksonville City Councilman Will Lahnen, Ann Bordin (front), Johnny Grosso (back), Michael Binder, Moez Limayem, Ann Hicks, Kevin Hyde, Paul McElroy, Jeff Chamberlain and Bob Boyle break ground on a new UNF dorm. | The University of North Florida
From left to right, Jacksonville City Councilman Raul Arias, Jacksonville City Councilman Will Lahnen, Ann Bordin (front), Johnny Grosso (back), Michael Binder, Moez Limayem, Ann Hicks, Kevin Hyde, Paul McElroy, Jeff Chamberlain and Bob Boyle break ground on a new UNF dorm. | The University of North Florida

Two weeks ago, UNF broke ground on a new dorm that would increase bed capacity to about 4,300. It’s slated to open in Fall 2025.  

author image Carter is a senior majoring in communication at the University of North Florida. He spent three years at Spinnaker, UNF's award-winning student-run media outlet, which was recognized among the best student newsrooms in the nation during his tenure as editor-in-chief. Carter's reporting has placed for multiple awards, and he generally covers news and education topics. He's also had bylines in the Jacksonville Business Journal.

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