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Volunteering, LSU President F. King Alexander thanks students for volunteering outside Annie Boyd Hall. An anticipated 2,500 new and returning students move to LSU on Move-In Day Wednesday August 16, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.. 

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Most LSU freshmen will be required to live on campus starting in the fall of 2018, the school announced Friday.

"The research shows that students who live on campus in their freshman year do much better academically," said Steve Waller, assistant vice president for residential life and housing.

Waller also said he does not expect lots of pushback over the new rule, which includes a variety of exceptions.

"We are the only public school in the state of Louisiana that does not have a residency requirement," he said.

The requirement will be the first of its kind since the 1970s and one that is sure to have an impact on LSU area rentals.

LSU proposed and then shelved a similar plan in 2009.

School leaders at the time blamed enrollment growth and an administrative shakeup for backing off initial plans.

Waller said the new policy means that about 80 percent of freshmen would live on campus starting next fall, up from 65 percent now.

A freshman class of around 5,000 is expected in 2018, which means freshmen on campus would grow by around 900 students.

This year's freshmen class includes about 4,800 students.

The rule will apply to students who graduated from high school and have not attempted any college coursework.

Dual enrollment classes — college credit earned in high school — would not count.

Students would also sign an academic-year contract.

Freshman students who begin classes in the summer or fall term would have to live on campus for the fall and spring semesters.

Those who start in the spring would be required to do so only for the spring term.

Exemptions include those who live with a parent or guardian within 50 miles of campus.

Other exemptions include students 21 and older on the first day of fall classes; those married on the first day of class; students with custody of one or more children and part-time students.

Military veterans could also qualify for an exemption.

Craig Davenport, an appraiser who tracks the Baton Rouge apartment market, said the move will obviously have a significant impact on the LSU-area housing market. The student housing market has been softening because of decreasing enrollment and uncertainty over the TOPS program.

LSU had 30,099 students at the start of the fall semester, a 2.6 percent drop from the year before.

If enrollment continues to drop, coupled with the new housing requirements, it could lead to “lower rents, more concessions and lower occupancy” at the complexes that target students, Davenport said.

Over the past few years, there has been a building boom around LSU as luxury complexes came on line, featuring amenities such as rooftop pools, study spaces that look like upscale coffee shops, lazy rivers and common areas with giant HDTV sets.

From the fall of 2010 to fall 2016, Davenport said private developers and the university added a net total of 6,352 beds to the student housing mix. That number has grown further; the Park Place complex that opened this semester at 222 East Boyd added 280 units.

But from fall 2010 to this year, LSU enrollment has gone up by 2,137 students. “The supply and demand has far outweighed the number of students,” Davenport said.

Further down Nicholson Drive, work has started on the LSU Nicholson Gateway Development, which is being built on a 28-acre site between West Chimes Street and Skip Bertman Drive that includes land where the old Alex Box Stadium and married student housing once stood.

Nicholson Gateway will include four new buildings to house LSU undergraduate and graduate students.

This will add more than 1,500 beds to the available student housing. The complex will also include 38,000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of recreational space for students.

The retail space will cater to students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. A new parking garage will also be added. The public-private development, which has been pegged at over $300 million, is set to open in fall 2018.

Sandy Avery, director of real estate for R.W. Day & Associates, said she’s pleased with the new rules regarding housing and said her company has offered support to LSU for the policy change “numerous times.” R.W. Day’s portfolio includes the Southgate Towers apartment complex at 4005 Nicholson Drive.

The company is developing the Summit at Southgate, an 18-story apartment tower that will have more than 440 units and nearly 1,300 beds. Construction on that building, located behind Southgate Towers, is set to begin in early 2018, with students scheduled to move in for the 2019 fall semester.

Avery said most of the students who live in Southgate are not freshmen so the new policy is not expected to have a significant impact.

One of the reasons for the changed policy is because new dorm beds will be ready next year.

Waller said a new dormitory, Spruce Hall, will add 421 beds.

"Those are the beds we really need to put us at the capacity threshold to accommodate housing expectations," he said.

LSU has about 6,000 beds now.

The 2009 push to require that LSU freshmen live on campus was led by then-Chancellor Sean O'Keefe.

Backers said then, like now, that the change was needed because first-time students do better if they live on campus. But O'Keefe resigned from his post after he lost the confidence of then LSU System President John Lombardi.

Waller said LSU is one of five SEC schools that do not have residency requirements.

The others are the University of Florida, Texas A& M, University of Kentucky and Auburn University.

He said the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has a two-year residency rule for new students.

Waller said first-time students who live on campus have higher grade point averages and retention and graduation rates than those who live off campus.

"It is really about student success," he said.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.