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Shedding commuter image

With 44,870 students in fall 2007, the University of South Florida has become the 12th most populous higher-education institution in the United States. From 1997 to 2007, its enrollment increased nearly 32 percent.

As it grows, the Tampa-based university is working to transform its image from a commuter campus to a residential campus. A key element in that transformation is a new requirement that first-time-in-college students must live on campus.

To accommodate those students, South Florida last month opened Juniper-Poplar Hall, a $65 million facility that will house 1,050 students. It is the largest residence hall on campus.

University officials want more students to live on campus because research shows that those who live on campus are more likely than commuting students to remain in school, become involved in school activities, graduate on time and have more academic success.

The steady growth in enrollment also convinced South Florida that the school's student union was too small to meet the needs of the student body. In addition, the aging facility, which opened in 1960, needed expensive repairs.

In response, students approved an increase in fees to pay for construction of a new student union. The university last year opened a new Marshall Student Center. The 230,000-square-foot facility includes a 550-seat food court, a 1,200-seat ballroom, a 700-seat auditorium and numerous other spaces for student activities.

Read the main story, "2009 AS&U 100," to learn more.

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