Breaking News
More () »

Lack of affordable housing and soaring rent prices squeezes UT students

College students are looking for housing ahead of the next school year and trends continue, they could have a tough time finding it.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Rent in Knoxville has soared 36% since March 2020, and it could get harder for students to find housing after the University of Tennessee announced a new lottery system for its dorms this fall, saying it needs to prioritize housing for a larger freshman class.

In November 2021, UT announced it was changing its room selection process for students living on-campus. Eligibility for dorms would be determined through a randomized lottery favoring first-year students.

Weston Standifer, a UT senior, said it's hard enough just to find off-campus housing. He lives in the Fort with four roommates each paying $750 a month.

“It went up from $650 to $750 since we signed,” Standifer said. "I would like to avoid living at home, but I guess if I really need to, I will.”

College students are searching for housing so they have a place to live for the next school year. If trends continue in the Knoxville housing market, it won't be easy.

"I'm taking one extra semester, so I was thinking about renting from somewhere down in The Fort again, but it's going to be so expensive. I'm actually moving back to my frat house because it's so cheap there," Standifer said.

For upperclassmen, things are about to change. With the on-campus housing waitlist already revealed, some are finding themselves in an uncertain situation. Fortunately for upcoming senior Javen Calhoun, his luck lets him continue living in Vol Hall.

"Last year, it used to be as you went up in status or you became an upperclassman, the housing process got easier but this year and so on it's going to be more raffle-based, so it is going to get more difficult," Calhoun said. "But it does kind of suck for upperclassmen because some of them can't afford to get apartments because their scholarships help pay for housing. It hurts some people, but I guess it helps freshmen and stuff like that.”

Without his scholarship, Calhoun said his dorm would cost him around $5,000 a semester.

"Without scholarships, it would definitely drain your pockets for sure," he said.

Joe Consumo is a realtor at Terminus Real Estate in downtown Knoxville. He said he is seeing downtown prices unlike ever before.

"Everybody's fighting for the same piece of the pie," Consumo said. "You're getting one-bedroom condos, one-bedroom one-bath, and they're renting out for $1,600 to $1,700 a month,"

With the demand outweighing supply, he said, a lot of students may be forced to move farther from campus.

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Knoxville is more than $1,000 a month, according to the Apartment List National Rent Report.

Nationally, 43% of students at 4-year universities did not have a stable living arrangement in 2020, up from 35% in 2019, according to an annual survey conducted by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University.

Students reported being unable to pay utilities, rent or mortgage, living in overcrowded units, or moving in with others due to financial difficulties.

Before You Leave, Check This Out