Amid Housing Shortage, University of Utah Turns to Alumni

The university is offering alumni living near campus $5,000 a semester to house students.
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  • The "Home Away From Home" program aims to launch with 100 students this fall.
  • There are roughly 120,000 University of Utah alumni living near campus.
  • A reported 3,500 students were on the waiting list for campus housing last spring.

The University of Utah is taking an unconventional approach to house its growing student body: asking alumni to open up their homes to students.

The university's new "Home Away From Home'' program will launch this fall and place 100 sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the homes of alumni living near campus. Alumni who house students will receive $5,000 a semester as part of the program, according to a University of Utah release.

The waiting list for campus housing included more than 3,500 students this spring, according to The SaltLake Tribune.

There are roughly 120,000 Utah alumni "living within the vicinity of the university," according to the release. Alumni who participate in the program will undergo a background check and fill out a survey about their interests.

Bethany Hardwig, director of special projects and outreach at the University of Utah's Office of Alumni Relations, told BestColleges that housing students with alumni won't just help the university find a place for students to live. She also hopes the program will both increase alumni engagement and help students connect with the university's large alumni network.

“At baseline, yes, it's a place to sleep. But it's really so much more than that.”
— The University of Utah's Bethany Hardwig talking to BestColleges about the school's Home Away From Home program

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"At baseline, yes, it's a place to sleep," Hardwig said. "But it's really so much more than that."

The university wants to use those survey results to pair alumni and students with shared interests. A student studying business, for example, could end up with an executive at a company who could give them advice on internships, Hardwig said.

"The hope is that our students who go through this program are already feeling really connected to their alumni communities before they even graduate," Hardwig said.

Alumni interested in the Home Away From Home program can fill out a survey to get involved, according to the release. Hardwig said roughly 500 alumni have already expressed interest — well over the number needed for this pilot program.

While enrollment in higher education has been declining for a decade — a trend that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated — the University of Utah and several other public universities in the state reported enrollment increases last year.

University of Utah President Taylor Randall wants to increase the school's student body to more than 40,000, according to the release.

Exactly what the next steps for the Home Away From Home program will be after the initial pilot wraps up remain to be seen, Hardwig said. She said the university's alumni network is "strewn all over the state, all over the country, and all over the world," and noted that there are a wide range of options for how to eventually expand the program.