NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee State University has surpassed housing capacity, and some students have yet to be assigned on-campus housing on the first day of the semester.
University officials said the institution is facing an unprecedented demand for student housing and are working to fulfill housing assignments as fast as they can. They have provided housing to more than 3,000 students so far.
News 2 spoke with Frank Stevenson, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, about the current housing issues. He said it’s exciting to have students back on campus. He also noted that they’ve received their largest freshman class in five years, and it has been a challenge to plan for housing in the middle of a pandemic.
“It’s like something that we have never experienced before. A lot of preparation and things that have to happen during a pandemic that we adjusted to and have been able to maintain,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson said they have about 70 students who applied for housing in the last week who are without housing right now.
News 2 spoke with Sabrina McCall, the parent of a junior at TSU about her experience. She said her daughter signed up in July for housing and had been waiting anxiously for an assignment. She said her daughter waited to sign up for housing due to financial holds they had.
“We were told don’t come. That was not an option to not come,” said McCall.
McCall lives on the West Coast in California and said the travel aspect of the trip was creating a lot of stress for her and her daughter. So, they decided to make the trip over the weekend and stayed at a hotel.
“We went to the hotel and explained the situation again. The hotel staff talked to someone at the campus, an administrator and things happened. My heart goes out to the other students. One girl, her and her family drove ten hours, and they had to turnaround because she didn’t have a housing assignment,” explained McCall.
With the help of staff, her daughter was given housing in a hotel about ten minutes away from campus.
McCall said she is grateful the situation was resolved.
“You want your child to have the college experience, and that’s a part of it. Learning to dwell with others, being accessible to events and things like that. It’s just we don’t have any family there, so living off campus was not an option for a 20-year-old who doesn’t have a normal income,” said McCall.
Stevenson told News 2 the university has taken note of a trend over the last few years of upperclassman staying on-campus or returning to campus for housing. Traditionally, they live off-campus, but he said the cost of living in Nashville is creating this issue.
“We noticed this trend several years ago. We house a higher percentage of under graduate students, probably percentage wise, than any of the other public institution. This is the ‘it’ city,” said Stevenson.
In response to this trend, Stevenson said the university began planning a new 700-room residence hall. It is set to be complete by 2022.
“When we started planning that residence hall, we were reacting to what’s happening in Nashville. It’s an expensive place to live for college students. So, we needed to create that opportunity for students to attend college and still live in this city. We started planning that facility over five years ago. It’s good to see it come to fruition,” explained Stevenson.
Stevenson said the majority of the 70 students without housing on campus right now are upperclassmen. He also said assignments are provided in the order in which students sign up for housing. He encouraged students to sign up as early as they can.
He also told News 2 that the new residence hall is just the beginning.
“We are planning for non-traditional housing. We have some plans over the next five to ten years to beef that up, so we can provide the accommodations for students,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson said university officials are taking some extreme measures to get every single student in a room by Monday night.