Graduate school to build new graduate-only housing in East Campus

Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

When international graduate student Mariagracia Rodriguez first came to UT last year to pursue her degree, she said the hardest part of adjusting to a new country was not the academic structure but finding proper housing. 

Rodriguez, a Latin American studies graduate student, said she had a difficult time finding housing last year during the pandemic’s peak because many places did not accept in-person tours. Along with other international students in the Latin American studies department, Rodriguez said she could not find suitable housing for graduate students that was fairly priced. She said the Texas Global office pointed international students towards housing in West Campus, but those apartments are often shared with undergraduates or are too expensive for the graduate stipends they receive to cover the costs. 

“What is in place now is a very informal system,” Rodriguez said. “Essentially, we need specific and affordable housing for graduate students, especially those who may have families.”

In response to student concerns, the University plans to build new housing in East Campus with over 750 beds for graduate students and their families, according to the University. Since the housing is still in the planning stages, there is not a direct timeline for the construction to begin, according to the Graduate Education Taskforce website.

After seeing her fellow cohort members face rent increases at their West Campus apartments, Rodriguez said she and her husband, who is also a UT graduate student, decided to move to East Austin. 

“Everything was online so a lot of places were not accepting people in-person for tours,” Rodriguez said. “I ended up in a place where I didn’t want to be because of false advertising, and it was further away from the school.”

While Texas Global helps students find housing, Rodriguez said international students face a dead end when it comes to finding affordable and convenient housing that is close to campus. 

“Texas Global suggested that (international students) pay the $1,000 (for) student apartments by the school,” Rodriguez said. “But they didn’t provide any other resources, and there was no support once (the students) got here to find a place to live.”

Margaret Luévano, director of the international student and scholar services, said in an email statement that the office provides international students with various resources to find student housing either on or off-campus. 

“International student and scholar services (ISSS) provides housing resources to new international students and scholars through our orientation programming for new students,” Luévano said. “We offer an orientation course that provides information on settling into the Austin area, plus a specific module on housing.”

In support of international and local graduate students, Trip Davis, president of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the assembly is working with the University to find better housing alternatives to accommodate graduate students and their families. 

“(We) are looking at how to formulate a way to gather information on where graduate students typically live, and how to pass this information from cohort to cohort,” Davis said in an email. “Additionally, we would like to figure out how to best provide details on affordability and proximity to campus.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the Graduate Education Task Force plans to build new housing in East Campus with over 750 beds for graduate students and their families in response to student concerns. The story has since been corrected to say the University plans to build  the new housing. The earlier version of this story attributed this information to a UT Graduate School spokesperson and has since been attributed to the University.  Finally, an earlier version of this story stated that the UT Graduate School spokesperson does not know when construction will begin. The story has since been corrected to say there is not a direct timeline for the construction to begin, according to the Graduate Education Taskforce website.