More than 250 students were placed into temporary housing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this fall due to a shortage of permanent living spaces on campus.
While many have since transitioned to permanent living spaces, more than half are still waiting for reassignment, according to the University Housing Director Mari Anne Brocker Curry.
This is part of a recent trend for universities across the country. Shortages in university housing have forced colleges to improvise and create more living spaces.
UIUC freshman Mary McQuaid recently moved out of her temporary living space, which was a former study lounge at Florida Avenue Residence Hall on the Urbana campus. She said being placed into temporary housing created uncertainty for her.
“I had no idea when I was gonna be moved,” McQuaid said. “It could have been way later next semester, it could have been the first week I got there, so it kind of just created a little bit of an unsettling feeling for me.”
McQuaid described staying in the repurposed study lounge, which was notably without windows. The space was designed for four students and came equipped with two bunk beds, lockers serving as closets, and extra furniture from the residence hall’s lobby.
“It was a little bit dungeon-like,” she said. “I would have no idea what the weather was like. Now that I have a window, I can look outside and be like, ‘Oh, it’s nice out today.’”
The housing shortage is due in part to the Urbana campus welcoming its largest freshman class in the history of the University this fall. The number of students in temporary housing this semester is comparable to two years ago. At that time, students who had spent their first year online because of the pandemic joined new freshmen in needing on-campus accommodation, Brocker Curry said.
McQuaid said that, while living in temporary housing, she received a 50% reduction in her room and board fees. But she still believes the university could have better solutions to the lack of housing.
“There could be other alternatives like allowing students to stay in a hotel or building more university housing,” McQuaid added. “That would be better than sticking kids in a room with no window, especially when it is said that every student is guaranteed housing.”
The university is on track to move all students into permanent housing by the start of the spring semester, Brocker Curry said. And the housing department prioritizes reassigning the students living in rooms without windows.
“We want people to have natural light, so ultimately, we get people out of those spaces first before somebody that’s in a lounge where there’s an exterior window,” Brocker Curry said.
According to the Illinois State Fire Marshal, there must be two ways to exit a room in the event of a fire. Brocker Curry said the temporary living situations still meet building codes for fire safety. She added that the Fire Marshal came to check the living situations in September and found no code violations.
“They weren’t originally designed as student rooms, and they still meet code in terms of they still have two exterior doors, two ways out of the space,” Brocker Curry said.
University housing, she said, feels a sense of urgency about reassigning students to permanent spaces.
“We want people to be able to get settled and enjoy their time here and be successful,” Brocker Curry said. “So that’s always kind of at the top of our mind when we’re doing this.”