190 UTC students living at Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- It's move-in week at UTC, and many students will be living off-campus among tourists and others downtown.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo is usually the temporary home for about 100 students, this year that number has almost doubled.
UTC is in the process of renovating an office building into a dorm to add 150 new beds by next fall, but even that won't meet demand.
Until then freshman, transfer and returning students will spend part, if not all, of their fall semester in a hotel room.
"I love living on campus," says Junior, Brandon Spencer. "I would like to live on campus again."
Odds are that won't happen this fall for Spencer, he knows how far down his name is on the wait list.
"I hope not, but more than likely I'll be here all semester," he says.
For 190 UTC students, move-in week is a different experience than they expected this semester.
"I didn't really like it," says mom, Connie Rodriguez. "He didn't seem to have a problem with it though."
Rodriguez' son, Carvis, is a new transfer to UTC. She says they were told up front he might have to live in hotel at first.
"Before orientation they let us know there was a possibility," she says.
That possibility is a reality Saturday. After lunch, Carvis and his mother moves his belongings into hotel building two at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. What Rodriguez didn't expect is the chance her son might have to stay at the hotel the entire semester.
"You don't have access to a kitchen," she says. "There's not really room to bring in all the appliances you need."
For the last five years UTC enrollment has been climbing. Historically, 100 students move into hotel rooms temporarily until natural turnover clears room on campus.
This year university officials tried different strategies to keep that number down. They encouraged returning students to live off campus, and offered incentives to Chattanooga area students to live at home until 2012.
Still, students moving into the Choo Choo this week jumped, and half could stay at the hotel all semester.
"I might actually focus on getting some study time in since I'll be away from all the action," says Spencer.
As college Junior points out, there are positives to everything. Even though the hotel rooms don't have a kitchen they are spacious, and comfortable.
"I roll with the flow," Spencer says. "It's no big deal to me."
Spencer would rather be on-campus, but he's not complaining. "It's a nice hotel," he says. "It's historic, it's cool."
Drop out students, transfer students and those who decide they'd rather be off campus are the reason UTC is able to place more students on campus later in the semester.
A shuttle service to and from UTC is available to students staying at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.