U Graduate Student Housing Future Uncertain as U Moves Forward with Phased Closures


Claire Peterson

(Design by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Vanessa Hudson, Assistant News Editor


University of Utah graduate students are facing limited options due to rental price hikes as the U continues its phased approach in demolishing old student apartments to make way for new and improved ones. 

In October, graduate students living in Medical Plaza and West Village were notified their buildings would be closed by August 2023 and left with three options: move into older East and West Village apartments, the new Sunnyside Apartments or off campus.

Rent Increases

Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Jennifer Reed said there is some discontent among students because of the rent increase. “The rates for the new apartment … are much higher than the rates that we’ve had historically in the Medical Plaza and in the East and West Villages,” she said.

In the last couple of years, Salt Lake City rental prices have skyrocketed, and currently, the average asking rental price in Salt Lake County is $1,531.

Mayor of University Student Apartments Blake Billings said prices for Sunnyside Apartments, on-campus housing for graduate students and families that will open in August 2023, are more competitive with Salt Lake rental prices. “The graduate students who are here trying to live off the stipends that are received from the departments, that’s completely out of their price range,” Billings, who is also a graduate student, said. 

Reed says the U is still looking at the impact of increased rental rates at Sunnyside Apartments. “We haven’t come up with a decision yet on whether or not we can … potentially offer a discounted rate for students that have already started their education under one assumption and one rate and now are being asked to pay something else and move because of the closures,” she said. 

The Impact on Students

Ellie Safaei and her husband are international students in the chemical engineering department. Safaei said they currently pay $1100 per month for a two-bedroom apartment in the North Medical Tower, but if they were to move into the new apartments, they would have to pay $1500 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Safaei said they had no idea the U planned to demolish these old buildings. “We moved here two years ago … and they said that they had the option to give us a room in the Medical Towers and they didn’t mention anything about their plan … to demolish this building,” she said. 

 For Safaei, living on campus is important because she has easy access to her classes and it’s safer as opposed to living off campus.

Safaei and her husband both have F-1 student visas that allow them to work jobs outside of the university under certain circumstances, however, only some international students have that luxury. 

Some international students with families rely on their stipends to pay their way through school because their dependents have an F-2 dependent visa, which only allows them temporary status to join their family at an accredited institution. F-2 visa holders do not have legal permission to work, so making extra money to pay for increased rent outside of stipend payments is not an option. 

Addressing the Situation

According to Reed, the process of meeting with students has been collaborative. “There’s been a good dialogue of the students communicating very clearly and professionally, what they’re requesting, what they need, and what their problems are with some of the decisions that we’ve made,” she said. 

Reed said there had been several meetings with students since October to assess what can be done, and while some solutions are still up in the air, University President Taylor Randall is assigning a task force to look at graduate student compensation. 

“That’s probably the most important thing and the most long-term solution … that has come out of the students’ request, is that task force from the President,” Reed added.

One decision that has not been finalized is rental reductions for students who were already living on campus. “What we’re specifically looking at, is a way to potentially grandfather in some sort of rent reduction for students,” Reed said. 

Reed is also a student and says she understands that college and housing affordability is a huge stressor for students. “My hope is that by giving students nine months’ notice, they had ample time to make a decision about what’s best for them to be doing and where they’re going to be living Fall semester 2023,” she said. 


@[email protected]