It’s been a rough few weeks for Sarah Pastore, who until recently did not know where she would live this fall. The psychology freshman began searching for housing in late July after UT informed her she was still on a waiting list for a housing contract.
Since signing her lease at 21 Rio, an apartment complex in West Campus, Pastore said she feels a bit better.
“I’m not freaking out about having to live in my car anymore,” Pastore said, half-jokingly.
Laurie Mackey, UT Division of Housing and Food Service associate director, said UT is entering the school year with students still on the waiting list for a housing contract. In June, she told The Daily Texan that DHFS would be able to fill every housing request by the end of summer.
On July 24, DHFS sent an email to Pastore, one of 1,200 students, warning her she was still on a waiting list for a supplemental housing contract and suggesting she start looking at off-campus options.
As of Monday, Aug. 27, 24 students, including nine freshmen, were on a waiting list for housing. Mackey said those students were notified Sunday they would stay on the waiting list until the twelfth day of class.
“We’ve warned them it doesn’t look favorable, but we still keep them in mind as students cancel,” Mackey said.
Although UT guarantees a bed to students who apply for housing by April 24, Pastore said she was not aware she could apply before accepting UT’s admissions offer. She applied May 1.
She said she was notified in June that she was on a waiting list for supplemental housing, but Pastore said she had no idea she might not get a housing contract.
“I thought it was just a matter of waiting,” Pastore said.
Pastore gave The Daily Texan an e-mail exchange she had with DHFS in late June, when she inquired if there were any on-campus rooms left. In the University’s reply, dated June 25, the Housing Reservations Team said: “We cannot guarantee housing and it may still be several weeks before we are able to reach you in the queue.”
The e-mail does not mention or recommend off-campus housing possibilities. At the time of the e-mail, several off-campus private dorms still had rooms available.
Pastore, who is from Houston suburb Pearland, said she had to find an apartment under a time crunch, using only online research. Pastore said she chose a two-bedroom apartment at 21 Rio, and saw her room for the first time when she moved in Monday.
Many students who plan to live off-campus start looking as early as the prior fall semester. Pastore and others started in July.
The problem stems from an incoming freshman class made up of an estimated 8,000 students, about 900 more than last year’s class, and 400-600 more than expected.
When DHFS realized it would not be able to give every applicant a housing contract, it provided links to private dorms and online rental listings in the late July e-mail. All six private dorms linked were full at the time.
According to representatives, only one of the six private dorms usually have openings after July 24, which is when DHFS sent the e-mail.
Hardin House Dormitory, a private women’s dormitory in West Campus, filled in February. Scottish Rite Dormitory, another private women’s dorm off campus, filled before spring break. Goodall Wooten, a co-ed dormitory on Guadalupe Street, filled up in June. West Campus’ The Castilian and the on-campus Dobie Center filled up around the same time in July.
Tillery Martin, the leasing and marketing team leader for University Towers, said the dorm usually has availability during move in dates but filled up around July 20 this year. This is the only private dorm that usually has openings after late July.
Without private dorms to turn to in late July, students were forced to turn to apartments and other living options. Pastore said the only apartments available in late July were either expensive, or cheap and not credible.
“I was very disappointed with the University,” Pastore said. “They just did not give me enough time to find an apartment.”
But Mackey said DHFS could not have given students more warning.
“We didn’t know,” Mackey said. “We give students notice when we know. This was a very unique year.”
Chay Walker, a leasing and sales manager from 512 Realty, said he has surprisingly already started receiving requests for off-campus housing for next fall, something students normally start in October.