The University of Kentucky is set to trial a pilot housing program which will see three students living in a space designed for two, in an attempt to address a shortage of on-campus accommodation for the upcoming academic year. University of Kentucky’s on-campus housing shortage is reportedly due to a record number of enrolments, and a considerable number of students who want to return to live on campus in their second year of study. Approximately 6,400 freshmen are expected to enrol this year – the university’s largest-ever freshman intake.

While living on campus is not compulsory, a university representative told media outlet WKYT that “85% to 90% of students want to live on campus” in recognition that living on campus is linked to higher levels of academic performance and improved student experience.

The university’s attempt at a creative solution, the “TRI-IT” program will accommodate three students in a two-bedroom suite in exchange for discounted rent. The first bedroom will house just one student, while the second will accommodate two students. This will be made possible by placing bunk beds in the room, with each student having a four-drawer dresser and a desk and chair.

Diagrams provided by the University suggest the two-bedroom suites have a total area of approximately 430sq ft (40 sq m) including both bedrooms, a kitchen area with vanities and a shower room. The ‘bunked’ room looks to be approximately 118sq ft (9 sq m) including a closet, chest of drawers and a two desks.

A video tour of the TRI-IT suite can be found here.

Those who choose a single room will save $500 annually, while those who opt for a double room will save over $2,000 each year. A university representative has told local media that it is hoped the more budget-friendly price points would make the pilot program more attractive to students. It appears that the lower-priced TRI-IT rooms may indeed be an attractive option for some. According to reports in local media, 47% of the first wave of students participating in a room selection process had chosen one of the new TRI-IT rooms.

This is not the first time that University of Kentucky has faced challenges housing its growing student numbers. At the start of the 2022/23 academic year, the University had to resort to asking resident advisors and residents to share rooms, a move that was criticised for depriving students of the opportunity to have a “normal” student experience sharing with other students, and for depriving resident advisors of the ability to separate their work and private lives.

University of Kentucky’s housing woes underscore the challenges around projecting housing demand and coordinating with local authorities regarding the availability of off-campus accommodation. The university does not currently link enrolments to the availability of housing given that it is not mandatory for students to live on campus, nor does it provide referrals to off-campus accommodation – something that has been criticised by parents. The university has said publicly that it is unsure if it will invest in additional on-campus housing infrastructure. This is likely to be linked to the fact that Kentucky’s population of high school graduates is expected to “peak in 2025 at 52,120”, declining by 14.6% to 44,508 by 2030 according to projections, made by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.

University of Kentucky is not the only university to face a housing crisis. Universities across the US have faced similar issues with widespread reports of students being housed in motel rooms, and universities being forced to find creative solutions such as shipping containers and floating accommodation. With students increasingly finding it challenging to secure on-campus accommodation and left to try to find accommodation in the increasingly expensive open rental market, there are growing reports of students facing housing precariousness and being forced to couch surf or sleep in cars. Long Beach City College in California was even forced to pilot a program which allocated parking spots for students without housing to sleep in their cars back in 2021.