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First-year students wait and worry over residence approval at University of Guelph

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Many incoming first-year students at the University of Guelph were told last week that they wouldn’t have a guaranteed spot in residence next fall.

Students say the uncertainty has caused anxiety, while parents feel frustrated with the lack of answers. The biggest complaint, they told CTV News, was the length of the waitlist.

The situation got a little clearer on Monday.

Students said they got an email indicating there were 1,356 people on the residence waitlist. However, no further details were shared about what that means for students, and specifically, if that represents the number of people waiting for another applicant to decline an offer for a room.

2022

This isn’t the first year housing has been an issue at the University of Guelph.

In early 2022, the school said they wouldn’t be able to find accommodation for all first-year students. More than 5,000 were welcomed on campus that fall, the largest intake in the school’s history.

To accommodate the increase, the university said they turned double rooms into triple rooms, made singles into double rooms and transformed lounges. In all, the school said they created approximately 400 additional spaces for students.

In September of that year, city council reviewed a proposal to tear down the nearby Days Inn to make room for a new student residence. The 10-storey project at 785 Gordon Street would have included 389 student units. Councillors ultimately voted 11-1 against the development, agreeing with a staff report which said the proposal wasn’t in line with the city’s official plan.

The Day's Inn Guelph will be temporarily used as a student residence for University of Guelph students. (Adam Marsh/CTV News)

2023

In June 2023, the University of Guelph was given the green light to use the Days Inn as a temporary student residence for the next three years. Those beds would accommodate an additional 160 students.

The approval came weeks after the university announced it had successfully accommodated all first-year residence applications. At that time, the school said it had approved a total of 4,462 students.

2024

In March 2024, the University of Guelph revealed the results of its Housing Demand Study. They said they were able to accommodate all first-year student requests and guarantee spaces for international and domestic students.

The study was conducted by the SCION Group, one of North America’s leading operators of student housing, who looked at both on and off campus housing near the university. It was also part of the school’s larger Student Housing Strategy.

At the time, the University of Guelph said it offered on-campus housing to 20 per cent of its total student population.

The study also found that the school would be able to accommodate all first-year requests while also expanding its offer of residence to first-year international students, master students and PhD students.

The University of Guelph said in March that several other properties were going through the permit approval process. If approved, they could add nearly 2,500 student beds over the next few years.

“Residence is not guaranteed”

The University of Guelph has also shared their process for deciding who gets a room.

“Using a randomly generated number, we will continue to send out ongoing residence confirmations to students up until the June 3 deadline. Residence is not guaranteed,” the school told CTV News. “This year, we started communicating with residence applicants in April to let them know whether they had received a confirmation of a place in residence as early as possible.”

The families who have reached out to CTV News disagree with the school’s claim. They said they weren’t aware they might not get a spot in residence until after the June 3 deadline to accept the school’s offer. At this point, they add, it’s too late to switch plans to go to another school.

“Housing staff began contacting students/families [Monday] if they do not have a confirmed residence spot; all those emails are expected to be sent by [Tuesday],” the university told CTV News.

They also agreed to an interview with CTV News on Tuesday.

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