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Southern Utah University warns students over lack of housing

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 19:50:12-04

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Administrators at Southern Utah University said they were unprepared for a spike in enrollment following the pandemic. In a letter sent to students, administrators warned there may not be housing available in the fall.

Skyler Jones, a senior at SUU getting ready for his final semester, said he has turned to looking in surrounding cities and commuting, but has had no luck.

"I’ve applied to St. George for housing," said Jones. "I’ve applied to places in Beaver for housing and I just haven’t found anything.”

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Jones has one family friend he might try and has even considered living in a camper trailer for four months.

Lawrence Mbaki, a junior at SUU and the International Student Ambassador, is lucky to live with his family.

Yet Mbaki has been working to help others not as fortunate as he is.

“Not knowing where you’re going to sleep will not help at all because you need to focus on your studies," said Mbaki.

The young ambassador said he's watched fellow students book AirBnBs for housing.

Mbaki said he wishes SUU would have made sure they could accommodate all of the students before accepting them.

"Especially the international students," said Mbaki. "So that they know they’re safe and have a roof over their head."

At least 1,000 students might not have housing, according to Jared Tippets, SUU Vice President of Student Affairs.

"The reality is, not every student may find a bed," said Tippets.

Typically, 13,000 students enroll at SUU each semester, but this fall, Tippets said they have close to 14,000 students.

About eight to nine thousand of those students will live in Cedar City.

"We were on track for the largest enrollment in school history," said Tippets.

Tippets believes the spike in enrollment stems from the pandemic and SUU offering in-person classes in comparison to other colleges.

Some high school students who graduated high school in 2020 deferred going to college during the pandemic. Tippets said they're now seeing those students joining.

"We recognize this is a really unique situation that we’re in," said Tippets.

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If possible, Tippets said students may have to do school online during this temporary housing shortage. Others have been asked to live with any family members or friends in the area.

Tippets also tells Fox 13 the housing shortage was influenced by families moving from out of state to Cedar City and buying the homes that are typically rented by students.