Carly McCaw was sure that this May, the third time would be the charm. 

A first-year Rachel Carson affiliate studying remotely from San Diego, McCaw tried to get on-campus housing at the start of the fall and winter quarters. She pulled out in fall due to the limited capacity resulting from the CZU Lightning Complex fire, and while offered housing in the winter, she ultimately withdrew her application after move-in date postponements.

McCaw was hopeful that with COVID regulations easing, the fall of 2021 would be her chance. That was until an email from UC Santa Cruz Student Housing put that optimism in limbo, announcing that current first-years were not included in priority housing groups for next fall. 

“It was an immediate concern. If [my friends and I] weren’t able to get housing, what would we be able to do? […] It’s already pretty late and a lot of people have already been planning for how they’re going to live off campus,” McCaw said. “It definitely threw our plans in the air and caused immediate stress.”

Before the pandemic, McCaw and other current first-years would normally be guaranteed on-campus housing for their second year, but with a reduced housing capacity, the university had to replace the two year guarantee with a housing prioritization system.

This system involved consulting campus offices and organizations including Slug Support, Student Union Assembly, and the Division of Student Success and Affairs.

“Our work together relied on open, ongoing dialogue that led us to mutually agreeable solutions supportive of our students’ needs and strengthening all partners,” wrote Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC director of news and media relations, in an email.

Hernandez-Jason said that UCSC is anticipating being able to provide housing to about 8,500 students, but that number could change depending on future public health guidance.

Fall 2021 Priority Housing Groups:
– 2021-22 New Frosh and New Transfers
– 2020-21 EOP New Frosh
– 2020-21 Campus housing residents with an exceptional need
– 2020-21 New Frosh and New Transfers who reside in campus housing during Summer Session 2021 (limited space available)
– EOP Continuing Juniors
– International Students (1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students)
– K.S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Program
– Military Veterans
– Regents Scholars
– Renaissance Scholars

All students interested in fall 2021 university housing are encouraged to apply in the Housing Portal ( during their respective application period:
-Continuing UCSC students: May 17-24 – New incoming frosh: late May, specific dates to be announced
– New incoming transfer and visiting students: late June, specific dates to be announced
– New incoming graduate students: early May, specific dates to be announced

It is unknown how many students will apply for fall on-campus housing since the deadline for potential new first-years and transfers to accept offers of admission is May 1 and June 1, respectively. However, if housing application numbers mirror those of fall 2019, UCSC could receive almost 11,000 applications for undergraduate housing, leaving 2,500 students behind.

Another first-year who finds themself in the same boat as McCaw is Rachel Carson affiliate Tim Kraemer. Like McCaw, Kraemer has studied remotely since the tail end of his senior year of high school and has stepped foot on campus only once. He’s one of many who could miss out on on-campus housing.

“I would have loved to have the ‘freshman’ experience that everybody has — making new friends, staying on campus, and everything. Being online kind of feels like an extension of high school. It doesn’t really feel like I’m in college yet,” Kraemer said. “That’s why I’m hoping that it works out.”

McCaw understands why priority housing groups were chosen the way they were, but says it’s even more frustrating to her that she was previously denied from an honors program that is designated a priority group. McCaw said it’s also frustrating knowing that next year’s first-years will be getting the housing that the Class of 2024 was unable to get. 

She does admit that if she were an incoming first-year instead of a soon-to-be second-year, she’d also be upset if her class was denied housing priority. Still, this other perspective doesn’t wash away her frustration with the university’s messaging. 

“I feel as if it could have been handled better overall with relaying the message to students, giving more resources and providing a little more clarity,” McCaw said. “I feel like throughout the year, it’s just been very all over the place with getting the information to students who really need to know where they’re going to be living the next year.” 

Regarding housing applicants for fall 2021, Hernandez-Jason wrote that students are encouraged to be flexible in terms of the type of housing accommodation they will accept and patient as the assignment process moves through each phase.

Both Kraemer and McCaw are still planning on applying for on-campus housing. In the case that their applications are denied, they’ll both have to grapple with either looking for off-campus housing or staying at home for another year.

For McCaw, if she can’t find any options that are cost-efficient, she doesn’t think she’ll have a choice other than to stay at home again. For Kraemer, it’s up in the air, depending on how his schedule will look during the fall.

“I feel sad. It kind of feels like the university’s leaving me behind. But there’s nothing much you can do,” Kraemer said. “I’m just hoping for the best and I mean, I still have three years of my studies left. It’s not like all of it is going to be online. It’s just that I might miss out on part of my experience that other people had.”