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UC students question university's growing enrollment amid housing crisis

UC students demonstrate outside of the Board of Trustees meeting
Zack Carreon
UC students demonstrate outside of the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

During the University of Cincinnati's Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, a group of students filled the back of the room holding a banner and signs demanding the university take more action to address its current housing crisis.

Recently, UC's Vice Provost of Enrollment Management Jack Miner said the university has been working to fix its housing shortage on campus by renovating its existing dorms and directing students to off-campus housing options in the private market. But some students say it isn't enough.

The demonstrating group's spokesperson Kade Geno, from UC's Young Democratic Socialists of America group, says the root cause of the housing shortage is the school's ever-increasing enrollment.

"We don't have the resources to sustainably and effectively support all of the admissions that they are pushing," Geno said.

This academic year, UC recorded itslargest enrollment on record, with 47,914 students attending the university in the fall. That record number brought in an additional 1,204 students compared to the previous year. In the past decade, UC has grown its enrollment by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students every year, and the figure is expected to increase again next year.

RELATED: UC opens newly renovated Calhoun Hall to address student housing shortage

During the meeting, UC President Neville Pinto acknowledged the group's demonstration and thanked them for showing how much the issue matters to the student population, but also said the university has no plans to decrease enrollment.

"Our goal to grow is in alignment with our mission as a public university," Pinto said. "It is our responsibility to provide educational opportunity to as many students as we possibly can and improve that access to this institution."

Zack Carreon

Pinto went on to say that the university's leadership is not trying to dilute its students' experience and is continuing to work on solutions to provide more affordable housing. But Geno says that answer does nothing to fix the immediate problems students are facing which include rising rent prices, limited housing options and overcrowding.

"There's a time for patience and there's a time where you're just not getting what you need," Geno said, "That doesn't stop the hurt. That does not stop the mental health issues that we have. That does not stop anything that's happening. That doesn't solve anything either."

Pinto made sure to note that every incoming student who applies for on-campus housing is guaranteed housing through the university, but students say after their first year, they're often left to navigate the scarce private market on their own.

RELATED: How affordable will Cincinnati's affordable housing be?

"Once your first year is done, you're kind of put in fire because you just don't know what to do afterward," Geno said.

Geno says the problem is now expanding well beyond the area around campus. As enrollment grows, the student population is pushing existing on-student residents out of their neighborhoods and will soon have a larger effect on people elsewhere in Cincinnati.

The UC YSDA will host an economic justice town hall Saturday, March 18, in Baldwin Hall on UC's campus to discuss these housing issues further.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.