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Housing headaches for the University of North Texas led to students living in hotels

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The University of North Texas had a record number of freshman this fall — but not enough dorm rooms on campus.

University of North Texas requires first-year undergraduate students to live on campus. But when more than 1,000 freshmen showed up, some ended up in local hotels.

A.J. Jah, looked forward to living in a dorm, meeting new people, and participating in campus life as a freshman at The University of North Texas.

But the 17-year-old international student from Nepal instead found himself living in a hotel for several weeks.

Less than a week before move-in day, Jah was sent an email that told him that he would be staying in a hotel his first semester until further notice.

UNT policy requires first year undergraduate students to live on campus. But this semester, the university assigned students in live in hotels after admitting their largest freshman class ever and filling on campus housing.

“In order to accommodate as many of our students as possible, we had about 20 students in Denton area hotels at the beginning of the school year.” UNT officials said in a statement.

Jah said his living arrangement affected his college social life.

“I couldn’t make as much friends, because all my friends lived on campus, where I lived in the hotel," Jah said.

Until recently, he lived at a Holiday Inn Express — almost four miles and 14 minutes away from the UNT campus.

Transportation was also an issue for students who lived in hotels. They were given 100 Lyft credits every month for two locations — in the UNT area and near their hotels.

Yael Branch is an 18-year-old freshman from Dallas. He also stayed in a hotel. He said that using Lyft was annoying.

Branch described using Lyft as “a hassle" and an “extra step” — but in the end it wasn’t that bad.

He used around 60 Lyft passes a month. Branch is enrolled in the minimum number of classes for a full-time student. And he was not involved in any campus organizations while he lived at the hotel. But he still used about 60 Lyft passes a month.

Branch said his mother was hesitant at first and wanted him to live on campus.

But he said he didn’t mind living at the Holiday Inn because he liked the freedom. Students, he said didn’t “ have a lot of supervision ” and could do whatever they wanted “ without much trouble.”

UNT officials said they have begun planning additional on-campus housing and are exploring all housing options for next fall so they can accommodate as many returning and transfer students as possible.

Branch and Jah got to move into dorms on campus in late October during homecoming week.

The number of students now living in hotels—zero.

Got a tip? Email Mya Nicholson at  mnicholson@kera.org.

Mya Nicholson reports for KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.

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Mya Nicholson reports for KERA News as an intern assigned to KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.