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Cal State San Marcos expands student housing

First year students at Cal State San Marcos are feeling the jitters as classes kick off this week. But some of them get to wind down in the brand new housing facility that no students have lived in before. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne gives us a look at the school’s newest housing complex.

North Commons is the name of the brand new 332 bed housing complex for Cal State San Marcos students inside the North City project near campus.

It's the second housing facility to be built by the North City developer — Sea Breeze Properties.

"It's really exciting to see students move in. We're at 100% occupancy here at this building and at The Quad and at the University Village Apartments," said Sea Breeze Properties vice president, Darren Levitt. "So just to get that vibe and that excitement back on campus and the North City development, we're so grateful."

He says North Commons is just a fraction of the full North City project that is in the works. “Roughly a 200 acre specific plan in the city of San Marcos that’ll have a mix of different uses from student units to market rate housing, single-family housing, a lot of great retail and a lot of office space that will be coming in the near future,” Levitt said.

Allie Serrano, the interim director of residential education with CSUSM, says the new housing facilities are helping the campus keep up with the demand of new students.

“CSUSM is no longer just a commuter campus, this is a place that students are excited to be at and a place that we really want to make sure this is the best years of their life," she said.

Serrano says having more housing near campus has helped get more students to choose CSUSM. "The students I'm talking to, they have such amazing stories, places they're coming from, a huge international population, students from out of state — really all over the country and the world.” 

CSUSM is one of the youngest CSUs in the state and Serrano says it holds even more potential as it gets developed.

 “Just the beginning of what is going to be an incredible residential experience for students and really their home on campus, we want this to be an amazing foundation for them to be successful as CSUSM Cougars," Serrano said.  

CSUSM leaders announced plans to build an affordable housing and dining facility on campus with the intent to reduce overall costs for students.

The University Village Student Success Housing and Dining Project (UVSS) will consist of a 205,200-square-foot student housing community with space for 600 residents and a 19,481-square-foot dining hall with seating for 320.

CSUSM administrators have tentatively scheduled the groundbreaking for February 2024.

"We're excited to bring forward a transformative project that will set a new standard for affordable student residential living, representing a significant step in addressing student basic needs and helping our students of all backgrounds thrive academically and personally," CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt said. "Student housing is an integral part of the student experience, and it can have a profound impact on academic and lifelong success.

"This project will ensure that more future CSUSM students will have that opportunity — a key component of our institutional mission of student success," she said.

The project will be funded in part by $91 million that CSUSM is receiving from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature in their $300 billion budget for 2022-23. Of the $497 million being allocated for student housing projects on nine California State University campuses, CSUSM is being given the second-highest amount.

Prior to this year, the university's housing capacity was 1,547, less than 10% of the university's student population. The UVSS project follows several other housing and dining options which opened or are scheduled to open this year; North Commons opened for the start of the fall semester on Monday and houses 332 students in the North City development across from CSUSM. Also in North City is Campus Way Cafe, an 8,000-square-foot dining hall that will open in September.

When UVSS is completed, the university's housing capacity will increase to more than 15% of the student population.

"Students should never have to decide between paying for rent or school supplies, or decide which utilities or basic needs they can live without while pursuing their dreams of becoming a teacher, nurse, scientist or entrepreneur," said Jason Schreiber, CSUSM's dean of students. "This new project will result in a clear public benefit, providing low-cost student housing and reduced rents so that students can focus their attention where it matters: their hopes and dreams for the future."

According to a university statement, CSUSM will make a commitment to offer available housing at UVSS to low-income students. A recent institutional demand study revealed an ongoing demand of 571 beds based on current enrollment and a projected demand of 868 beds based on an increased enrollment of 20,000 students.

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