KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As thousands of University of Tennessee students returned to campus this week for the spring semester, housing remains a source of stress for many.
Having grown up in Knoxville, soon-to-be sophomore Karsten Hoglund is all Vol, but his hopes for a picture-perfect experience at UT recently fell apart.
"My most stressful time here has been figuring out housing," he explained.
Finding on-campus housing as an incoming freshman was not a problem, he said, but the shock came once he registered for sophomore year and discovered the waitlist.
"Getting that email was definitely a shock," Hoglund said. "It said my spot was 301 of 819 men who are needing housing, and my jaw kind of hit the floor because I didn't expect to be in this situation."
It's a situation many UT students are in. Limited on-campus housing forced some to camp out overnight hoping to secure an apartment in Knoxville, but Hoglund said even those are mostly occupied.
"I was calling around for different housing and different leases off campus, and the big problem is that everyone's full. There are no leases available," Hoglund said.
Speaking on WBIR's political affairs program "Inside Tennessee," UT president Randy Boyd said the university has a plan to address the issue.
"What we have to do about it is just build more housing," Boyd said. "We hope to build 5,000 more beds within the next five years."
Boyd said for the first time, UT plans to partner with private firms to build housing as opposed to relying on government funds.
"It hasn't been done in the state of Tennessee," Boyd said. "So this will be new, but it's important and we're thinking that's part of the solution."
Until then, Hoglund is sending a message to potential future Vols: "I see all these tours going on and students from New York and New Jersey wanting to come to UT, and I'm just like, 'Think about housing and that you may not get it. It's even more money than what you're putting into the university.'"
Hoglund plans on living off-campus next school year. He will be paying roughly $1,000 in rent and living with a roommate.
Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Cuevas offered this statement to 10 News:
"Each year, housing capacity fluctuates based on enrollment and retention growth, demand, and whether halls are unavailable due to construction or renovation. Currently, UT has its highest amount of housing inventory, with more than 8,000 on-campus beds, which does not include Greek housing. First year students are generally required to live on campus.
We understand the concerns that continuing students and families have shared with us, and we are actively working to address those concerns. We will do everything we can to accommodate our students’ housing needs, offering space on campus as it becomes available as well as securing additional accommodations through off-campus master leases.
We continue to support students, including offering a housing fair and educational programming to support students in their search for off-campus housing. While we do not have direct affiliation with most off-campus housing, the university has an off-campus housing website, which continues to have postings from off-campus properties. Students can utilize this website to search for off campus housing, compare rates, and connect with resources."