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Students move into North Commons, the first dorm-style housing at California State University San Marcos, on Aug. 26. Photo courtesy of CSUSM
Students move into North Commons, the first dorm-style housing at California State University San Marcos, on Aug. 26. Photo courtesy of CSUSM
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CSUSM opens new dorm-style housing at North Commons

SAN MARCOS — Freshmen at California State University San Marcos now have the option of moving into a dormitory-style living space, a first at the college as it strives to shift its reputation from a commuter school to a true four-year university. 

The North Commons dormitories on North City Drive house 332 students in single, double and triple dorm rooms, and opened at the end of August in time for the current fall semester.

The dorms are the second student housing project by Sea Breeze Properties, the developer of the larger North City project across from the university.

Darren Levitt, vice president of Sea Breeze Properties, said the project is a departure from the existing apartment-style housing such as The QUAD and Block C.

“Cal State San Marcos, they’re growing more quickly, and doing all the right things to become more of a four-year institution rather than a commuter school, which is how they’ve typically been known. One of those transitions to a four-year institution is true dorms,” Levitt said.

A conceptual rendering of the affordable student housing and dining complex planned to break ground at California State University San Marco in 2024. Photo courtesy of CSUSM
A conceptual rendering of the affordable student housing and dining complex planned to break ground at California State University San Marcos in 2024. Photo courtesy of CSUSM

The seven-floor North Commons holds around 50 students per floor who are split into three “pods,” designed to allow for connections within a smaller community. Each floor also contains five common spaces where students can gather, along with a community space on the ground floor. 

Accompanying the opening of the dorms is the launch of CSU San Marcos’s first student dining hall, Campus Way Cafe, later this month. The dining hall will be located a block and half from North Commons, with meal plans required for all residents of the dorms. 

“The Campus Way Cafe is a transformational project for CSUSM and a critical step toward building a complete residential life experience for our campus community,” said CSUSM Corporation Executive Director Will Marchese.

According to Levitt, the addition of North Commons brings the total bed count to around 1,880, with another recently-announced housing project also in the works.

In late August, university officials announced their plans for a 600-person affordable housing development accompanied by an additional dining hall to meet the dire need for on-campus housing in an increasingly unaffordable market. 

Groundbreaking on the University Village Student Success Housing and Dining Project is planned for early 2024, and officials said that they will “make a commitment” to offer available units in the housing site to low-income students.

Over half of the university’s student population are first-generation students, and just under half have “an exceptional financial need,” according to a recent press release

“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,” said CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt.  “Student housing is an integral part of the student experience, and it can have a profound impact on academic and lifelong success.”

In order to support student residents, the University Village Student Success development will also include administrative offices, living-learning classrooms and community spaces, as well as basic needs services for mental health and nutrition needs.

Funding for the project comes in part from the 2022-23 state budget, in the form of $91 million in affordable student housing funds for CSU San Marcos— the second highest amount received by a CSU campus this year.

In a recent study, the university determined that there is an ongoing demand of 571 beds based on current enrollment. This demand is projected to grow to 868 beds as enrollment continues to increase. 

When the new housing opens, the university will have enough student housing for around 15% of its total student population, an increase from under 10% in recent years. 

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