Jake Swift, a first-year genetics major, heads to meet his friends at the Segundo Dining Commons. Although the Dining Commons are typically one of the biggest perks of being a first-year, this is an unusual occasion for Swift. Instead of enjoying prepared meals with the simple swipe of his ID card, he usually consumes homemade packed lunches and self-cooked dinners.
Swift is one of many first-year students who do not live in the dormitories. Some students choose not to live on campus, such as Swift, due to the steep price and cramped spaces. However, with Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s 2020 Initiative — the expansion goals for UC Davis to be met by the year 2020 — Student Housing plans to increase the number of dorms to accommodate more students and prevent crowding first-years into triples.
Ramona Hernandez, the Director of Business and Financial Services at UC Davis Student Housing, said that the university is busy in pursuing plans for the 2020 Initiative.
“We have some construction projects that are happening right now,” Hernandez said.
Currently in Tercero Area Phase 3 there are 1,200 new beds that will be available in fall of 2014. These are considered replacement beds for other beds in demolished dormitory buildings, such as the Tercero letter buildings.
Student Housing is making up for some of those beds by renting out apartments at Primero Grove, which houses primarily first-years but also includes about 40 transfer students.
“The rest of [the transfer students] are actually living in apartments through our student housing apartment program, which is at seven different apartment complexes within the city of Davis,” Hernandez said.
Those seven apartment complexes are The Lexington, The Arbors, Arlington Farms, Adobe, The Willows, Drake and The Colleges.
While The Ramble apartments are technically on the UC Davis campus, the complex is not owned by UC Davis. It is owned and operated by a third party, Carmel Partners. UC Davis Student Housing has an agreement through real estate services that they will not be overseeing any of those apartments at this time.
With over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending UC Davis, finding housing can be tough. In addition to housing for first-year and incoming transfer students, the university is also working on housing for graduate students too. Construction will start shortly for single graduate student apartments where the Castilian dorms were demolished, according to Hernandez.
This year there are 5,200 first-years, including many who have to live in triples due to an over-accommodation of incoming first-years. Right now there are about 4,800 students in the residence halls, along with 107 Resident Advisors.
Admitting more first-years than planned was not a miscalculation, according to Hernandez.
“It’s not that they over-admit, it’s really a guessing game,” Hernandez said. “They statistically determine what our enrollment target is and they work backwards. If we want so many students enrolled as freshmen by October, we need to admit a certain number of students by March.”
Hernandez adds that last year UC Davis simply had a higher take rate. This coming year, the expected number of first-years is 5,100, which Student Housing will be able to accommodate while requiring less tripling.
In order to make tripling less necessary, multiple new dorm areas will be built in the future to accommodate more students.
By Fall 2016, Tercero Area Phase 4 will open with an additional 400 beds. This set will replace the 175 beds that can currently be found in the aged Leach Hall location, with additional beds scheduled to be added there as well.
When it comes to students living in the dorms despite entering UC Davis post-Fall Quarter, Hernandez says it is definitely possible — spaces tend to open up.
“We often have students who may delay their start of their academic career, to the Winter or maybe the Spring Quarter, and we always have a handful of students who are asked to leave [so therefore students who don’t begin the academic year in the fall may still live in the dorms],” Hernandez said.
Forty-seven students have left so far this academic year because they were disqualified or they decided they didn’t want to attend UC Davis anymore, thereby opening up space for students who wished to live in the dorms.
Meanwhile, for students who look for housing after their first year at UC Davis in the dorms, becoming an RA is a smart and affordable option.
Cody Thao, a second-year political science major and a resident advisor (RA) in Regan Hall in the Segundo dormitories, agrees that becoming an RA is hard but worth it.
“[Becoming an RA] has always been competitive, because of the benefits attached,” Thao said.
For students who choose to become an RA, their housing fee is covered, and they are provided with a meal plan for the Dining Commons along with the advantageous perk of priority registration for academic classes.
Like Thao, money is a key issue for Swift, who is supporting himself through school.
“My financial situation is pretty tight … [and] it’s very expensive to afford luxuries like the dorms or meal plans,” Swift said.
This is why he only goes to the Dining Commons when his fellow first-years swipe him in. However, despite missing out on normal dorm living experiences such as shared bathrooms and multiple roommates, he considers himself happy living off campus on Russell Boulevard with only a 45-second walk to campus.
“It’s work [to support myself and live off campus] but it’s work in a good way; it’s keeps my head in the right way,” Swift said.
ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at email@example.com.