That's the real issue. If your HDTV has an appropriate tuner under the hood, you could potentially tune in the unencrypted channels. However, I've yet to see a unversity which offers anything in HD (and FWIW, I am affiliated with one of the 'pricier' ones). Basic cable AFAIK in most areas does not include HD. Those channel numbers are usually much higher. YMMV.
I am moving into a dorm room at the end of the month and am bringing my hdtv with me. Right now I have the cable from the wall into the comcast hd box with an hdmi cable to the tv (basic hd setup). The dorm room will have a basic cable from the wall (no cable box). My question is: is there any way to convert the cable from the wall so that I can have hdtv in the dorm room? Obviously without the luxury of a hd digital cable box.