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No room in the dorm

As students return to college campuses, some find they have nowhere to live

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No room in the dorm

Christy Johnson’s 18-year-old daughter Jaylyn plans to start her freshman year at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 22, but not on campus. After being put on a waiting list for housing in June, Johnston said the school told them they would find out about Jaylyn’s housing at freshman orientation. They drove two hours from Louisiana only to find out she was still on a waiting list—with over 600 other students. The school said students could look for off-campus housing, but Johnson wasn’t comfortable with the idea of her daughter, a new driver, living off-campus in an unfamiliar city. Instead, Jaylyn signed up for online classes.

“It’s just going to buy us more time to be able to go out there and not rush the process, but be able to learn which areas are safe and find something affordable,” Johnson said.

As students prepare to return to campus this fall, some are finding that there are no on-campus housing options available. Last week, nearly 400 incoming freshmen were still on a housing waitlist at the University of Central Florida. The University of Tennessee designated a nearby Holiday Inn Express for overflow housing. At the University of Arkansas, school officials said about 900 students will need to live off-campus. Dorms are full, and the school expects nearly 1,000 more freshman students than last fall.

A spokesperson for the University of New Hampshire said in an email that school officials expect to be at or around capacity for on-campus housing, and the school has designated several lounge rooms for temporary housing for first-year students. She attributed the housing crunch to higher enrollment and more rising sophomores wanting to remain on campus.

At Oklahoma State University, Housing and Residential Life Ambassador Jillian Braggs, a student staffer, said on-campus housing is nearly full, and school officials have had to tell students that they may not be able to get the type of housing they had planned on or room with the roommate they selected. Braggs said students could start submitting room transfer applications two weeks into the school year. The school stopped taking housing applications early last week from returning students in order to accommodate incoming freshmen required to live on campus. Braggs said the housing shortage is in part due to a rising number of students. “It really is baffling to see this influx all over, but it’s also amazing,” she said.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, an estimated 13 million students attended postsecondary schools in spring 2022. In 2018, that number was closer to 18 million. Student numbers for this fall aren’t yet available, but housing shortages could be an early indication of returning student numbers, or they could point to other reasons students are staying on campus.

Some school officials suggest increasing rent costs may be one factor pushing students to stay on campus longer. On average, apartment rental fees rose by 9.4 percent in the last year.

In Louisiana, Johnson said that Jackson State officials blamed higher enrollment numbers and a closed dormitory for the shortage of on-campus student housing. She has already started looking into off-campus housing possibilities, hoping Jaylyn can move in by October. For financial reasons, they will also need to look for a roommate, which may lengthen the search.

“I want her to be able to have a college experience—I had mine, so I know what she’s missing,” Johnson said. “I want her to be able to go out there and network and meet new people and build new friendships … so she can learn to stand on her own and become independent.”

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


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