Mich. students face changes as they return to campus

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Many changes await college students across Michigan as they begin a new school year.

Among the most visible differences will be on the campus of Michigan State University, where tobacco is banned.

Tobacco-free signs are posted across campus and on the sidewalks at all major entrances, greeting MSU students and letting them know that all tobacco use is forbidden on campus, years after many other universities barred smoking and the use of other tobacco products.

“We realize it’s going to take months if not years to change the culture on campus,” MSU spokesman Jason Cody said. “It’s going to take time.”

Besides tobacco bans, first instituted at the University of Michigan in 2011, other changes on the state’s campus range from the fun — such as new dorms to live in and new eateries — to the more serious, like an earlier window to file for financial aid for 2017-18.

In recent days, many students have packed up, left home and moved their belongings to campus.

At the University of Michigan-Flint on Saturday, hundreds of students moved into the school’s second on-campus residence hall — the Riverfront Residence Hall and Conference Center on Saginaw Street downtown.

The new dorm was gifted to UM-Flint by the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation in April and it’s open for the first time as a university property. About 200 juniors and seniors will live there while 200 freshmen and sophomores will live at the university’s First Street Residence Hall, open since 2008.

The opening of a second residence hall is a barometer of the university’s development into more than a commuter college, said Robbie Swager, who will live and work at Riverfront as a resident adviser.

“This is the next step in their growth,” Swager said. “It brings more people here.”

Meanwhile, students at Eastern Michigan University will be eating at new dining venues after the Board of Regents’ approval in June of a controversial 10-year agreement with Chartwells Higher Education. The agreement privatized the university's food service, which will translate into more options in residential, retail and catering food services on campus.

Among the first is Smashburger, specializing in made-to-order burgers, and set to open Tuesday in the student center, EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom said.

Also opening in the student center in September: Mondo Subs, offering homemade chips; Sono, featuring tacos, ensaladas and burritos; Za’tar, serving Mediterranean fare; and Nido, offering pizza, vegetarian fare and a salad bar. Other sites also will open across campus.

Students will be barely settled into this fall’s classes when it will be time to start thinking about financial aid for the following school year.

Starting Oct. 1, all students can now file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), rather than waiting until Jan. 1. The date change is aligning financial aid applications with college admissions.

Experts say the earlier timetable is aimed at helping prospective college students develop a better understanding about their expected family contribution, which should help them decide where they could enroll.

It’s also aimed at encouraging more students to apply for financial aid.

Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said the change is an important first step in the simplification process “and can be a launching off to further simplify and streamline the application process.”

KKozlowski@detroitnews.com