On a crisp fall day high above the constant bustle of Route 9, Framingham State University’s hilly campus teems with activity. Pedestrian traffic jams arise at the entrance to a centrally located academic building, as underclassmen fight against a swarm attempting to enter the building, rushing through the double doors to speed-walk to class.
Over the past five years, the university has seen nearly a 20 percent increase in the number of undergraduates. This fall there were 4,576 undergraduates and 1,930 graduate students.
The number of students living on the campus shot up by more than 25 percent, to 1,941, as the school added more than 400 beds with the opening of the $48 million North Hall dormitory last year.
“We are the fastest growing public university over the last two years,” said Framingham State’s president, Timothy J. Flanagan.
But students are not the only ones impacted by the growing campus. The town has seen increased economic activity as local restaurants and stores say a fair chunk of their business comes from college students.
“They offer an awful lot to our community,” said Selectman Dennis Giombetti, who lives near the university’s State Street campus in Framingham Centre. “Their growth expands the qualities they provide to the community.”
Framingham is on track to continue its growth as a college town, with university officials looking at plans to construct another dorm by 2015 that could add 100 beds.
Also, Massachusetts Bay Community College announced in October that it plans to construct a permanent location in downtown Framingham that would accommodate an enrollment of 4,000 students, after consolidating satellite campuses on Flagg Drive in Framingham and Eliot Street in Ashland. The community college’s main campus in Wellesley Hills would be unaffected, school officials said at the time.
“MassBay students include older students who are continuing their education while working full time, so they would have more disposable income to use in the downtown area,” Giombetti said. “It’s a major boost and game changer for downtown.”
Businesses near the state university campus say they are already seeing sales benefits from the students who live, work, and study locally.
“On Thursday nights, it’s probably about 90 percent college students here,” said Jen Madden, owner of O’Connell’s Pub and Sports Bar, which sits less than a mile from campus. “There’s probably about 150 of them in here then.”
Rick Mullen, manager of Super Discount Liquors, which is just down the hill and across Route 9 from Framingham State, also said his business benefits from the college.
“I’d say about 25 percent of our clientele are in their early 20s,” Mullen said. “In the last 10 years, that’s definitely increased, as the size and popularity of the school increased. It’s a good school, and it’s drawing more students.”
The university has also drawn entrepreneurs to the area. Dimitris Bokas stood outside an empty storefront in the same plaza as Super Liquors, squinting up in the afternoon sunlight at the newly placed sign identifying the renovated space as University Pizza.
Bokas said he will manage the pizzeria when it opens early next month.
“We love the location — just look across the street, you can see the university right there,” he said. “This is both a college and a residential area.”
Framingham State officials said in April that the university saw 12 percent enrollment increases in the past two years, leading to a decision to limit the annual increase in its overall undergraduate enrollment to 2 percent this fall.
“As of last year, the majority of our undergraduates — 52 percent — are now living on campus,” said Flanagan. “The old view of Framingham State University as a commuter school is now firmly in the past.”
As campus enrollment increases, so does the number of students placed in internships in the area. Framingham State spokesman Dan Magazu said the university hired a full-time internship coordinator in 2010, and since then internship placement has swelled.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, 333 students completed internships for credit, and more than 600 students participated in noncredit internships, he said.
Framingham State officials said its students intern at notable Framingham companies, such TJX Cos. and Bose Corp., as well as Natick-based MathWorks Inc. and the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, in addition to several medical facilities.
Additionally, enrollment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs has spiked at the university in the past five years: there are 69 percent more math majors, 37 percent more biology students, and 32 percent more computer science majors, Flanagan said. Continued...