Last year, the University of Tennessee’s “lottery system” was put into effect to aid in choosing which students would receive on-campus housing and who would have to find alternatives. With the 2022 fall semester bringing in the most freshman ever anticipated, there have been greater challenges than previous years.
Now students are dealing with issues such as extremely long lines for food, full commuter parking spots and, for those that were in the lottery system, no place to live. Even average Knoxville apartment rents have either been raised or completely occupied.
So what happened to those that did not get chosen, and how are they feeling almost a year later?
When chosen for the lottery system, some students were sent to on-campus dorms, while 250 others were placed in what students are calling the “Voliday Inn,” a Holiday Inn renovated into a UT-themed dorm on Papermill Dr. roughly 15 minutes away from campus.
“The one negative was how late we were told this was gonna happen,” Marc Salvatelli, a junior journalism major and transfer student from Massachusetts chosen in the lottery, said.
“I almost pulled out of UT because I didn’t get housing, and being a junior student without a car, I really needed … to get from Point A to Point B, and I needed a place to live … They told me at like the last week of July, so almost two weeks notice, so I was very close to not going here which would’ve been disappointing.”
Though many students are going through a similar situation, Kari Alldredge, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management, said that there is not a cap on the acceptance of new students, regardless of the challenges presented by high occupancy levels.
“Each academic cycle varies based on the number of applications and the quality of the applicant pool,” Alldredge said.
“There are many factors that influence shaping a new first-year and transfer class … The university is growing, and not just in new enrollment.”
Alldredge said UT goes through a very “competitive but holistic” admissions process through evaluating rigor of high school curriculum, difficulty of senior-level coursework, awards, special talents or skills and optional letters of recommendation.
Frank Cuevas, Vice Chancellor for Student Life, explained that the lottery was a result of the expected increase in size of the incoming first-year class and decisions were based on students’ financial and medical needs as well as housing insecurity.
“University Housing contacted every student on the waitlist as space became available and offered an on-campus housing option. A majority of the students on the waitlist had found alternative housing options,” Cuevas said.
Salvatelli argues that he, as well as other students, have complained about the lack of communication from the school, how late they were notified and the length of time it took for them all to find out if they would even have housing.
“I remember my mom being on the phone for hours on end just trying to get any bits and pieces of information, and we were told multiple different things from guaranteed housing to not sure if there was going to be any at all. So there was a lot of gray area there for transfer students,” Salvatelli said.
While students have complained about having a hard time finding somewhere to live, Cuevas believes there are still plenty of alternatives out there.
“Students that did not identify a need to live on campus were advised to explore offcampushousing.utk.edu, an off-campus housing website,” Cuevas said.
“Additionally, an off-campus housing fair and programs to educate students about living off-campus, signing a lease, managing finances and staying involved on campus were offered.”
Regardless, Salvatelli continued to struggle to find housing in the weeks leading up to the fall semester.
Lots of websites like Craigslist and Apartments.com have been said to have hardly anything available or very expensive rent.
Sierra Neugent, an out-of-state senior, is currently having living stresses of her own. She did not sign up for the lottery system because she signed a lease to an apartment off campus last December. She experienced an additional issue as her rent was raised by a large margin.
Within the first week of September, she received her re-lease offer stating the rent would increase $400 for the year or $500 for six months to “match market pricing.”
“There’s no family or friends for me here in Tennessee that I can just live temporarily with until I am finished with my degree,” Neugent said.
“Two months is not a long time when you consider how many other students and people living in Knoxville are experiencing this same situation and need places to go which means that landlords and rental companies are just going to take advantage of all of us and raise rent prices even more.”
Neugent has also considered dropping out as a last-resort option with the rush to find somewhere to live in just her last two months of schooling.
Neugent advises other students to search for homes months in advance. She also suggests staying home with family if the opportunity is available, and at the very least to be prepared for a backup situation.
“Never think that this won’t happen to you because I didn’t think it would to me,” Neugent said.