UM hopes to complete six new housing projects by 2013

Though the University of Miami is looking to slightly decrease the undergraduate population in the next few years, officials plan to increase on-campus housing in order to meet the current demand and encourage more student involvement.

Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said the number of students who want to live in the Village, which currently houses 719 undergraduate and graduate students, illustrates the need.

“Demand is incredible,” he said. “What we’re doing is we’re looking at what the demand is to live on campus and determining how many rooms [we need].”

Increasing on-campus residents and decreasing the undergraduate student body are in line with President Donna E. Shalala and Provost Thomas LeBlanc’s goals to improve the university’s academic and overall standing.

“Ever since she arrived, [Shalala has] wanted to catapult the university to the higher level of schools,” Arias said.

Arias said the university is moving forward with plans to increase on-campus housing and attract commuter students, adding 1,916 beds in the next six years, after the approval of UM’s master plan in March.

Before University Village opened this year, approximately 40 percent lived on campus in Hecht, Stanford, Eaton, Mahoney and Pearson Residential Colleges and the apartment area. With the addition of the Village, 46 percent of students now live on campus.

The university’s goal is to have 61 percent of undergraduates living on campus by 2013. Arias said that the date could be delayed if the university hosts one of the 2008 presidential debates.

According to a UM-compiled chart that compares the number of students who live on campus with 11 other “sister-schools” used for benchmarking, the university is now third from the bottom with respect to the percentage of students who live on campus, sandwiched between Tulane and New York University. Other universities listed include Emory, Syracuse and Vanderbilt.

“What makes a university great is the positive experience for students, both inside and outside the classroom,” Arias said. “The way it becomes a positive experience for students outside the classroom is how engaged or how involved they are in on-campus activities.”

He also noted that research shows students who live on-campus are typically more engaged than off-campus students.

“When you’re an off-campus student you come, you go to class. If you have an off-campus job, then you leave,” he said. “For the most part, the majority of the students who live off-campus aren’t as involved as we’d like them to be, or they’d probably like to be.”

With the housing expansion, the university will also remove 831 beds by decompressing the towers and eliminating housing in the apartment area.

Due to an increase in on-campus housing, Student Affairs will work with the Department of Parking and Transportation to rezone parking lots and add more spaces. Arias noted the university plans to add two floors to the Pavia Garage and straighten-and thus double the available spaces-in the Serpentine Lot, located between Ponce de Leon Boulevard and the BankUnited Center.

Arias said this is an exciting time to add housing.

“We will become a truly residential university where 60 percent of our undergraduate student population lives on-campus.”

Greg Linch may be contacted at Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at