Florida A&M University will hold ceremonial groundbreaking at 4 p.m. Wednesday on 700-bed residence hall and dining facility.
(Photo: Special to the Democrat)
Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson will travel to the nation’s capital Monday to close on a $125-million federal loan that will pay for a new residence hall and provide for housing upgrades on campus.
Robinson’s trip will be followed up at 4 p.m. Wednesday when the Board of Trustees holds a groundbreaking for the 700-bed residence hall near Osceola Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
Construction is expected to start in April. It includes two four-story “H-shaped” buildings. Each wing will have 350 double-occupancy bedrooms, including shared bathrooms.
The buildings, along with a 10,000-square-foot dining facility, are scheduled to be ready for occupancy by fall 2020.
The $125-million loan is coming from the U.S. Department of Education’s Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program.
Of that, $60 million will go toward the new complex, including $54.5 million for planning, equipment, soft costs and building construction; $2.8 million for utility infrastructure and $2.7 million for the dining facility.
The additional money will be used to restructure the university’s debt on FAMU Village – the university’s most recent student complex which opened in August 2014 – and for much-needed maintenance on existing student housing.
The addition of the new residence hall – with its state-of-the-art amenities, represents more than a portfolio addition.
Robinson has made clear his top priorities are improving student housing and services and focusing on student success, by shoring up academic advisement, hiring new faculty to reduce classroom sizes and ushering in faculty development initiatives.
Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson
“I am grateful for the support of elected officials, colleagues at the Department of Education, the FAMU community and all stakeholders who helped pave the way for the university to provide students with state-of-the-art living and learning spaces,” Robinson said. “The university has experienced an increase in enrollment and admissions applications, and we are excited about meeting the needs of future and current students.”
‘Being more selective’
Robinson has said 500 of the 700 new beds would be filled with current students, making 200 new beds available.
Once it’s built, FAMU will take offline Paddyfoote, Truth Hall and Palmetto North apartments, all currently in use for on-campus housing.
This week’s groundbreaking comes as Florida A&M is experiencing an increase in applications from first-time-in-college students, in addition to transfer and graduate-school students.
Robinson, during a media briefing last week, said FAMU has 6,746 first-time freshman applications for this fall. Adding in transfers and graduate and professional school applications, the total reaches 7,927 and is expected to increase.
That compares to total new applications in 2017 of 5,264 and a total of 6,582 in fall 2018.
How many actually end up enrolled won’t be determined until later.
According to University Housing, FAMU’s current residence halls have 2,543 beds and can accommodate approximately 26 percent of the enrollment. The goal is to increase that capacity to 3,600 beds to accommodate 30 percent of the student body by 2022.
FAMU’s enrollment as of last fall is 10,031. It’s planning for 12,000 by 2022.
“FAMU is offering the academic programs that students are interested in,” Robinson said of the uptick in applications. “If you come to FAMU, you are going to be able to get to where you want to go.”
Florida A&M University campus
The increase in applications comes as FAMU is seeking high-performing students. For instance, the university is increasing its minimum GPA requirement to 2.85, up from the current 2.75.
At the same time, the university steadily has been decreasing the number of students who do not meet its academic standards.
Students who don’t meet the criteria are encouraged to take the state college pathway to FAMU. The university has “2+2” agreements with about 10 colleges, meaning students attend there first and then are guaranteed enrollment at FAMU.
“Part of this (increase in applications) will be our ability to be more selective in terms of students we bring in,” Robinson said, with caution. “I want to make sure that isn’t confused with the idea we think that our student population should be characterized in the same way others do it.
“We want great students. We realize that they can come to us with different histories, but still be successful. We really don’t want to be a prima donna when it comes to admission; we want to be a prima donna when it comes to students who go out and make a difference. That’s where we can have the greatest impact.”
FAMU is ranked as one of the top universities nationally as far as the upward mobility of its graduates. The majority of its students receive Pell grants and on average come from households earning $45,000 or less.
“They typically leave on average making more than their household income,” he said. “FAMU and HBCUs around this nation have made an impact on the middle class. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Even in Leon County, despite the fact you have three very fine institutions here, there is still a 24-percent poverty rate. So, we have a lot of work to do here.”
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Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byrondobson.