Short On Dorms, College Program Houses Students With Local Alumni

The University of Utah is short student housing, so they are reaching to to staff and alumni, asking them to house students.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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University of Utah

While fewer students may be enrolling in college, pre-pandemic levels are rebounding, and colleges and universities across the nation report that more students are returning to the campuses this coming fall. While this finding is a positive for Higher Ed, some colleges are struggling to meet housing demands. The University of Utah has hundreds of students they still need to house, so the school is experimenting with a creative way to house them. 

This year, the University of Utah will launch what they call their Home Away From Home program. The school is pleading with staff, faculty, and college alumni to sign up and house these students within their own homes. While the endeavor is promising, some remain skeptical of the risks these situations could pose given the school’s past history of reporting potential crimes. 

Keeping freshmen priority for dorm living, University of Utah sophomores,  juniors and seniors can sign up for the program. Surprisingly, it costs more than the price of dorms on campus, setting students back $5,000 a semester. For potential housing participants, the school will in turn pay them $5,000 for housing the students. 

The only qualifier for those interested in lending their home is that they are a faculty member or alumni of the University of Utah that lives within a 25-mile radius of the school. Potentials can fill out a screening survey on the school’s site. If approved, the University announced it will extensively screen all applicants before placing students in their care. 

Every housing situation will be different and depends on the approved applicant’s housing situation. To this, the University noted that some students will benefit from living in secluded suite-style spaces, while others will simply have their own bedroom in a house. Whether or not students will be handed these spaces based on sheer luck or a system of preference for spacing is unknown. 

What’s more, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that college administrators are hopeful that added benefits will be given when students get to interact and learn from past alumni that have experienced the University of Utah and all it has to offer. When students are filling out applications for the program, they are screened for matching interests and lifestyles before being placed with a housing tenant. So far, the initiative appears to be taking off. The goal was to place at least 100 students in houses this fall, and they are close to making that goal with at least 85 potential hosts showing interest. 

University of Utah

Given the fact that this program looks to place students in houses off of campus with complete strangers, some are skeptical of the possible negative implications, especially given the University of Utah’s failing record of handling student complaints of safety issues. This past winter, a female student was murdered by her ex-boyfriend near the school. Now, it has been reported that the school improperly filed her complaints warning school staff that she feared for her safety. A similar incident also occurred in 2018 when a slain student attempted to alert campus police more than 20 times that she was in danger. 

Despite pessimism, in earnest form, the Home Away From Home program could serve as an innovative and beneficial means to house students in need of living spaces at the University of Utah. There still remains to be at least 600 registered students in need of living space within the school. Placing them inside sincere homes with alumni families could be the best option the college has to offer.