10:46:22:Move In

A student pushes a cart of belongings past the Gatton Student Center during move in on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

UK is struggling to fill on campus housing with returning students. Even with the plentiful incentives, students are choosing to live off campus instead. 

Over the summer, UK Housing announced, “Pick Your Perk!,” an incentive program for returning students to live on campus for the 2021-2022 school year. If students completed their housing application and selected their room between July 2 and July 30, they could choose between incentives that included AirPod Pros, a $250 Visa gift card, a $250 UK Bookstore credit, Apple TV 4K or a free year of laundry. 

These sound like amazing incentives to me. However, there is a catch. The university noted that the value of prizes would be counted as financial assistance. 

So, you could win a brand new pair of AirPods, but you’d then lose $249 of financial aid. Instead of using existing financial aid on these prizes, students could have spent their money on the increased price of the dorms and taken their financial aid overflow and used it at their own discretion.

Every year, the cost continues to rise, and I think a large part of that comes from UK’s leasing terms with Greystar, the university’s partner.

This year, the university has raised the housing rate by 3 percent and the dining plan by 3.1 percent. 

Jay Blanton said that there are no plans to offer monetary incentives to live on campus in the future. “We believe that the benefits of wraparound service as well as proximity to classes and on-campus activities are an added benefit to the amazing facilities we have to offer,” Blanton said. 

Although strict statistics on on-campus housing were not provided, Blanton offers insight to what this year’s on-campus numbers might look like. “Historically, about 88 percent of the first-year class voluntarily chooses to live on campus and we believe numbers will be comparable to that this year as well,” he said.

However, this percentage is just of the first year students on UK’s campus. There are four dorms that are currently being used for students who need to isolate due to COVID positivity, according to Blanton, including University Inn, Smith, Baldwin and Ingles.

Donovan Hall, however, is completely empty and unused. Although the rest of these dorms are used for COVID-19, it could be because they were vacant anyway and of good use to the university for isolation dorms. 

Although their motivations might vary, students are choosing to stay off of campus. 

After my sophomore year, I decided to move off campus because of cost and comfort. I wanted easier access to my vehicle, I did not like sharing a bathroom and my financial aid wasn’t enough to cover the cost of my dorm.

Like myself, many other students decided to move off campus for various reasons. Junior Alexis Montgomery said she moved off campus because of the price of campus housing and issues with shared living spaces. 

 “I didn’t like paying over $4,000 a semester to share a bathroom, and I didn’t like having an RA,” Montgomery said. “The incentive is nice, but with the money I’ve saved from moving off campus, I can buy AirPods myself."

Senior Aerin Mitchell said she chose to live off campus for independence, convenience and cost. She also said she wasn’t aware that the university offered the incentive program.

“It’s not surprising, since they need the revenue,” Mitchell said. “However, they couldn’t pay me enough to live on campus. I have too much freedom now.”

Another reason many people chose to live off campus is because of the pandemic. After COVID-19 caused classes to go online, staying in the dorms was sometimes seen as risky. Students went back to their hometowns in droves to stay with family during the nationwide lockdown. 

This year, some students and parents may have felt it was a good decision to live off campus just in case we went into lockdown again. When the pandemic first hit, things were hectic trying to move out of dorms and other on campus facilities. A lot of people were possibly looking to avoid that again.

There isn’t much the university can do to keep upperclassmen on campus. The biggest reason, cost, is something that administrators have control over. If UK was able to lower the rate per semester and add more accessible parking for students, it may be able to turn things around. Until that happens, this issue is most likely going to continue to grow.