Graduate Student Assembly members push for increased graduate student housing

Samantha Ketterer

After months campaigning for increased graduate student housing, members of the Graduate Student Assembly said they are hopeful administrators will approve housing plans in the near future.

GSA’s Graduate Student housing committee began administering a housing survey to graduate students in February at the request of the UT administration, and more than 2,300 students responded. GSA president Brian Wilkey said the University administration has responded positively to the results of the survey.

“Our data was presented to the Graduate School and President [William Powers Jr.] has come to address at the GSA saying that the likelihood of the housing being approved is high,” said Wilkey, human development and family sciences graduate student, in an email. “This means we’re simply in a holding pattern until approval is given.”

Joy Wyckoff, psychology graduate student and committee chair, said most graduate students who responded to the survey said they felt affordable housing should be provided by the University.

“The majority [of] graduate students felt that it was important for UT to provide graduate student housing,” Wyckoff said in an email. “One reason is because many people found it difficult to find off-[campus] housing when they first came to UT.” 

Once the Graduate School drafts a plan that is approved by the University, Wilkey said they will send the plan to the UT System Board of Regents for approval.

GSA Vice President Vance Roper said he believes implementing new housing off campus seems fairly feasible, although finances are always an issue. 

“The challenges are less [about] getting approved … because the University is behind this,” said Roper, public affairs graduate student. “The biggest challenge is detailing what kind of housing do you get. That’s a big bulk of the problem … the nuts and bolts.”

The survey also asked students about their housing preferences, including room size, price and location. The committee and Graduate School have looked at placing the housing in nearby neighborhoods, Roper said. 

Wyckoff said affordability is one of the main issues graduate students face when looking for housing.  

“This is an important issue for graduate students, especially as rent prices are increasing in Austin,” Wyckoff said in an email. “Students also are moving from far away (only 11% of survey respondents were already living in Texas), so having graduate student housing option would make the transition to Austin smoother.”

Although the University does not have graduate-student-only housing, it currently operates three off-campus University apartment complexes, each approximately six miles south of campus. According to the Division of Housing and Food Services, the apartments are traditionally reserved for graduate students, student families and undergraduates.

Earlier this month, the GSA renewed the committee for another year so that they can continue to address the issue, Wilkey said.