SF State strives to dispel commuter campus label

When classes end for the day, students are often overwhelmed by an urge to leave campus right away and get home. The sense of urgency these students feel is part of what has led to SF State’s designation as a commuter campus, but times are changing.

Administration is implementing new ways to encourage student involvement, hoping to shift the University from a commuter to a destination campus.

“It doesn’t mean we still don’t have commuters. We have a lot coming from the local area that commute from a home location, either in San Francisco or the Bay Area region. In a way, we’re kind of both,” Jo Volkert, associate vice president of enrollment management, said.

In recent years, there has been an increase in first-time freshmen from outside of the Bay Area, many from Southern California, according to academic senate chair Shawn Whalen.

“It is hard to identify exactly why that is the case, but one key factor is that the University acquired a lot of campus housing … in 2005 and that made SF State a more attractive option for out of area students than it had been before,” said Whalen on behalf of University President Leslie E. Wong.

Although Wong contends that recent SF State demographics imply that it is no longer a commuter campus, the statistics are not definitive enough to support the claims.

In a meeting with Xpress staffers, Wong stated that things are changing for SF State in terms of its former designation as a commuter campus.

From 1992 to 2006, first-time freshmen enrollment consisted primarily of those living in the six Bay Area counties as opposed to other California counties. From 2007 on, the enrollment started leveling out, according to SF State enrollment data.

“The demographics are that we have more resident life students, more students living in and around campus, and that’s a challenge for San Francisco State,” Wong said. “Because what I understand is that we’ve been very used to a commuter San Francisco student body. I was told a third of our freshman class comes from Southern California, which (James M.) Rosser from Cal State L.A. had been giving me a bad time about, but in a kind way. It does make you think more about student life, about programming, etc.”

Despite a lack of specific statistics supporting the diminishing commuter status and students still not witnessing much student life outside of school hours, there are still parts of campus that are booming.

“It’s dead, like on campus, but it’s never dead in The Village (at Centennial Square) or (The) Towers (at Centennial Square) around the residence area,” said Destiny Vaca, 19, a resident of Mary Park Hall.

Spanish major Aaron Schilling travels from the Mission District and considers himself a commuter, but believes a possible changing status could be due to students looking for a sense of belonging.

“Everything is so general and big, and our peers are just trying to find a connection,” Schilling, 22, said. “In a big city like San Francisco, people are looking for a sense of community.”

Angela Raiford contributed to this report.

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