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University of Tampa incoming students left scrambling to find housing for new school year

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 21, 2021

TAMPA, Fla.— — Many incoming students at the University of Tampa are left scrambling to find somewhere to live for the new school year after they found out they likely wouldn’t be able to stay on-campus.

Hundreds of miles away from Florida, Julia Comunale found her fit at the University of Tampa.

“The campus was beautiful. It’s literally like a resort, and I loved everything about it,” said Julia.

But this week, the incoming freshman from New York got an email that made her heart sink.

“I was just in the middle of school, and I got an email saying that I was put on a wait list for housing, and that I wasn’t going to get off of it," said Julia. "So immediately I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I have nowhere to live.”

Julia is not alone. A dozen more parents and students called, emailed, and texted ABC Action News saying they were in the same boat with many other families. Incoming students and parents said they submitted information by a deadline, only to receive an email telling them while they’d been put on a wait list for housing, that it’s "very unlikely" wait listed students would get campus housing at this time.

“I felt like, 'Oh my god, my daughter is going to college, and she’s going to be homeless,” said Maria Comunale, Julia’s mom. “So right away, I had this feeling in my stomach like, 'Oh my god, what do we do now?”

“At the moment, all the off-campus housing affiliated with the school is filled up,” said Anisa Tandon, an incoming freshman from New York.

Families also say the alternatives they’ve been presented with are more expensive or booked up, and that they’re also worried about safety and security for their students.

Tandon said she turned down other opportunities to attend the school and has now started a petition over the housing dilemma.

“When I went to go tour the campus, our tour guide did state that for all freshmen, on-campus housing is guaranteed, and when we did receive our acceptance letters, it did state that as well,” said Tandon. “As long as we submitted everything before the deadline, which was May 1, we’re guaranteed on-campus housing. So most of us did all that, but we still received the email stating that we’re wait listed,” said Tandon.

The University of Tampa sent ABC Action News a statement, which said they don't guarantee on-campus housing for any students. The statement said because of "a surge of interest from incoming students to attend the University," student demand for on-campus housing exceeded housing capacity.

Parents told ABC Action News they’d written to the Mayor’s office. The Mayor’s office tells us Mayor Jane Castor was made aware of the housing situation from parent letters, and she has reached out to the university’s president.

Parents and students hope the university can come up with a solution quickly.

“It’s supposed to be the best four years of my life, and I didn’t even get there yet, and it’s starting off so horribly,” said Julia. “It’s making me question how the next four years are going to be.”

The University of Tampa sent the following full statement about the situation:
The University of Tampa is a valued destination for prospective students, and campus housing is always popular and in demand. UT has 12 residence halls – including one off-site residence hall -- that are either newly-built or recently-renovated, and houses more than 4,700 students.

This year, UT received a surge of interest from incoming students to attend the University for the 2021-2022 academic year. We believe this is due to many factors, including the continued popularity of the Tampa Bay region and UT’s increased reputation. UT’s successful handling of the pandemic and a universal optimism for a return to normalcy are undoubtedly also factors. As a result of this surge of interest, student demand for on-campus housing has exceeded UT’s housing capacity, and a number of students have been placed on a housing waiting list. It is unlikely on-campus housing will become available for students on the waiting list.

UT strives to provide on-campus housing for those students who will benefit the most from the personal and community support. Similar to other selective universities, UT does not guarantee on-campus housing for any students. Housing priority is based on the date in which students submit the housing application.

Students on the waiting list have been urged to visit UT’s Off-Campus Housing website for resources, such as the Off-Campus Resource Map, which displays apartment complexes, hotels, storage facilities, etc.

UT regrets this unexpected turn of events for students and their families and is working diligently to provide students information about off-campus housing for the 2021-2022 academic year.