Tennessee State University is the latest HBCU fraught with tackling on-campus housing accommodations for students. With the fall semester set to start in less than three weeks, some students say they still don’t know where they will be living. For now, students without proper accommodation, have been up in a hotel until further notice, but a few say their temporary lodging conditions are not safe.
“Students I know for sure they were finding needles in their rooms. Crackheads were sneaking into the building and patrol cars had to start patrolling the actual perimeter after a while. It was bad,” a student named Tolesea Dyson told FOX 17, who was placed at Best Western in North Nashville, just a few miles away from campus.
Parents are becoming frustrated by the ongoing housing debacle. “It seems as though this has been a problem every single year she’s supposed to go back to school,” a TSU parent named Anthony Taylor told the news outlet about her daughter’s unstable housing situation.
On August 1, the university’s student government association announced that TSU sophomores, juniors, and seniors, would have the option of signing up for online classes.
“You will receive a free discounted rate,” the association’s executive president, Kenneth Rolle, II tweeted. In the letter, TSU’s SGA said they were “working diligently” to solve the housing issue and that students who already submitted a housing deposit would receive reimbursement upon signing up for online courses.
In late July, a representative from the school claimed they were “not having a housing problem” despite growing complaints from students and parents.
“This is the point that we want to make sure we are clear on. Again, we don’t accept students based on our housing capacity,” TSU Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Carolyn Davis said. The school official said they had an “unprecedented” number of students applying for on-campus housing.
The growing HBCU housing crisis
It’s a great step in the right direction, but TSU’s alleged housing problem offers a small window into the snowballing crisis that many HBCUs have been struggling to tackle over the last year. In 2021, HBCUs saw an incredible rise in applications, but many schools have been struggling to provide enough on-campus housing to meet the demand. Now, some students are desperately searching for affordable accommodation. Recently, Florida A&M University announced that their on-campus housing was at capacity.
“Due to overwhelming interest in attending Florida A&M University, and the desire of new and returning students to reside on campus, we have reached our capacity in housing,” said William E. Hudson, PhD, vice president for Student Affairs in a statement, according to Ed Trust.
TB, a returning student at Texas Southern University, told ESSENCE GU, that she was struggling to find affordable housing off campus for the fall semester. Due to lack of housing, the junior student said that the administration decided to give incoming freshmen priority for on-campus accommodation.
“I don’t have that luxury [to be able to] afford $2,000 apartments,” TB added.
Lack of funding has compounded the housing issue
Capacity troubles are just part of the growing issue. Historically, HBCUs have been underfunded, leaving tight budgets and little wiggle room to improve or expand housing for students. In 2021, Howard University and Spelman College were scrutinized for allegedly providing students with unlivable housing conditions. In the fall of that year, Howard University’s housing problem went viral across the internet after students organized a sit-in to protest against mold, rodents, and flooding in their dorms.
Affordable off-campus housing could be a great solution for students, but gentrification has made the option difficult for HBCUs. Typically, universities are located in expensive urban areas.
According to Ed Trust, “In North Nashville, Fisk University and Tennessee State University students were able to rent apartments off-campus for many years, but, recently, the migration of white urbanites into North Nashville has raised the costs of housing and pushed residents and HBCU students out.”
It’s a complicated issue with many moving parts, but hopefully, the dots can be connected soon to ensure a safe and successful academic experience for Black students.
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