When Latonia Gilbert first started college, the Perry, Ga., native not only had to find her books, her classes and her niche, she also had to find a place to stay.
"When I came to Augusta State (University) as a freshman, it didn't have housing," the 22-year-old senior said. "Since I wasn't local, I had to look around for an apartment."
Her challenge: getting something affordable and something close to campus.
While she eventually found a place that suited her needs, this year's freshmen won't have to hunt as the university prepares to open its first student housing.
Called University Village, the gated community located off Damascus Road will house 508 students in fully furnished suite-style apartments and change the face of ASU. Move-in is scheduled for Aug. 5.
"In the past, we've pretty much been a commuter college. This will actually enhance and increase the types of students we're seeing," said Joyce Jones, the vice president for student services and dean of students at the university.
Ms. Jones said the university expects students to be attracted by the chance to have a traditional college experience of living on campus.
With two- and four-bedroom options and a slew of amenities such as a 24-hour, 12-machine computer lab, laundry facility, individual leases and a rent payment that includes cable, electricity, phone and high-speed, wireless Internet services and a city bus stop to take students to and from campus, the complex has already proven popular.
More than half of all the units have been leased, said property manager Niki Bivens.
"They're going to have a lot of goodies here," she added.
A volleyball court, walking trails, game room and resort-size pool are also housed in the complex, and ASU is planning to include a mixture of intramural and university-sponsored events.
"While it's nice to be close to home, it's nice to live with peers. There'll be study sessions, and we will schedule events at the club house," Ms. Jones said.
Working closely with the students, especially those who are just beginning at ASU, is something Ms. Bivens said will be a hallmark of the University Village.
"We're really focused on resident life," she said. "We want kids to be involved. We know there are going to be freshmen coming in who don't know what to expect from college, they'll get that (support) here."
It's more than Ms. Gilbert, who will move in and take a role as one of five community advisers who supervise a building in the complex, had at first, and something she said can only benefit students.
"This is really good for the students, and I do believe it's going to give ASU a campus life. There won't be dormitories where things are within walking distance ... but it's going to help with student spirit, especially with the athletic complex being so close."
That's been the goal since way before ground was even broken for the 24-acre complex, Ms. Jones said.
"We call it building a sense of community," she explained. "(Georgia) has football and we have Division I golf and a basketball team, but this puts the students in one place they can identify with. They get to have that sense of identity built in with the college. Some college pride will develop when you can say, 'We're all from Augusta State.'"
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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