Students at the University of Saskatchewan returned to classes on Tuesday, and for the first time in 40 years some are moving into new residences.

Affordable housing for the university's students had been a problem for decades — no new dormitories had been built since the 1970s. However, two years ago the province announced funding to change that situation and the result is about 360 new spaces have been completed.  

Katrina Guest considers herself one of the lucky ones. After searching for weeks for a place to live near the university she managed to snag a spot in one of the new on-campus dorms with three other students.

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Katrina Guest moves into her new room at the University of Saskatchewan. ((CBC))

"Brand new buildings — we're the first people to live here so it's definitely worth the money," Guest told CBC News, adding the $625 monthly rent is much lower than she could find off campus.

"Holy smokes, it was brutal," she said of her hunt for an off-campus apartment. "Housing was so expensive and student loans doesn't take into account that housing prices have skyrocketed."

Currently, about 1,500 students — about eight per cent of the student population — live in on-campus residences, a figure the university would like to see rise to the 12-per-cent figure enjoyed by most universities of similar size.

"Ultimately we'd like to be at 15 per cent but at this point we've done as much development as we have planned right now," said Greg Fowler of the university's housing office.

And while the new dorms are a good start, the university's student union says there's still a long way to go.

"Many students aren't coming to campus because … they can't afford to live and go to school at the same time, and taking on a whole bunch of debt is pretty difficult for some people," said Alex Ferwerda the students' union.

With files from the CBC's Steve Pasqualotto