How should California solve the college student housing crisis?
To address a housing shortage that has left tens of thousands of students without stable housing, California college leaders must try new and innovative design, construction and financing solutions, experts said Thursday. and students at an EdSource roundtable.
In addition to building many new traditional dormitories on campus, other solutions could include sharing construction and rental with community organizations, subsidizing students for off-campus rent, and converting facilities. existing campus facilities such as administrative buildings into residence halls, panelists said Thursday during the virtual EdSource. event on the subject. When colleges build new housing, they should also consider sharing those facilities with neighboring institutions in other systems, such as possible partnerships between community colleges and California state campuses, the panelists added.
“I think what we really need to take away is that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for solving this housing problem,” said Rashida Crutchfield, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at California State. University, in Long Beach. “We need to have a myriad of options for students.”
Finding answers to the housing crisis is an urgent need for California colleges and universities. According to a State Assembly report, about 5% of University of California students, 10% of California State University students, and 20% of California community college students said be homeless or in housing insecurity at some point during their studies.
Because most UC and CSU campuses don’t guarantee housing for all four years—and in some cases don’t guarantee it to any student—students are often on their own in tough rental markets like Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz. Housing supply in these areas is generally low and prices are high.
Among the students who have struggled to find affordable housing near their campuses is Ethan Kaplan, a fifth-year student at CSU Northridge in Los Angeles County. The monthly rent for the apartment Kaplan lived in last year has since jumped by around $1,000 a month, forcing him and his roommates to move.
Kaplan now lives at home with her parents. Its journey to campus is 40 minutes and sometimes longer due to traffic. Some days he only has one class and spends less time on campus than he does driving to and from school.
“It makes it difficult, from a mindset perspective,” he said during the roundtable. “You want to enter these courses with the best possible mindset to succeed, in order to get the most out of them.”
He added that living off campus also makes him less connected to the campus community. Kaplan was previously active in a group of Filipino American students at CSU Northridge, but this semester the organization has its meetings on Thursdays, when Kaplan doesn’t have classes. He said belonging to the group was a great way for him to connect with other students, but he doesn’t see the point in coming to campus just for those meetings.
This year’s state budget included $1.4 billion for the construction of affordable housing at five UC campuses, nine CSU campuses and 12 community colleges.
This includes Compton College, which is receiving an $80 million grant to build an on-campus facility with 250 beds.
Compton College has already established a housing subsidy program in conjunction with the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles. The program provides students with scholarships for off-campus accommodation. Panelists said grant programs can be particularly helpful for students who have housing but are at risk of losing it. But it may not be a perfect solution: Keith Curry, president of Compton College, said the extensive paperwork students have to fill out to get the grants has proven to be a burden.
Curry said the college decided to push for an on-campus housing project after hearing from homeless students who expressed their need for stable housing.
“And some people might say, OK, Dr. Curry, why are we in the housing business when our job is to educate? But the student won’t pass a transfer-level math or English course if they don’t have a place to sleep,” he said.
Another panelist, Su Jin Gaitlen Jez, executive director of California Competes, a nonprofit that conducts research on higher education, said state investment in affordable housing is important, but added that simply building new dormitories might not be enough. Jez said she was worried there would be empty beds in those dorms, especially at community colleges.
“Because community college students will see themselves attending that college for no more than two years,” Jez said. “And it’s a lot to uproot your life to move into a dwelling, even if your housing is precarious. She said that’s especially true for students who have kids and need to find child care.
Jez advocated for more collaborations between community colleges and CSU or UC campuses. This year’s budget funded such a project involving both Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University. These campuses will receive approximately $9 million in total for 51 new beds at San Diego State’s satellite campus in Calexico, which is close to the community college. Having more shared housing projects like this would allow community college students to live in one place for four years, Jez said.
Jez added that community partnerships can also be helpful. She highlighted the rapid rehousing projects that already exist on several campuses to help students avoid homelessness. In Los Angeles County, four community colleges and two CSU campuses are partnering with the nonprofit Jovenes to provide students with rental assistance while in school.
UC Berkeley previously partnered with Mills College in nearby Oakland and allowed students to live there, and is considering a similar partnership with Sonoma State, said Jo Mackness, deputy vice chancellor. of student affairs at UC Berkeley. But Mackness added that she fears these types of partnerships could be difficult for students because they would live far from the main campus and might struggle to integrate into the UC Berkeley community.
To add more housing to its main campus, Berkeley officials are considering converting existing spaces to housing, Mackness said. This includes everything from tennis courts to parking lots to administrative buildings. “There are a lot of different parts of campus that could potentially house a high-rise building,” she said.
Curry, the president of Compton College, said he appreciates Berkeley being creative in finding solutions to its housing shortage. Curry said all campuses must do everything possible to add housing or risk losing students.
“There is competition there. We want to keep our students in the state of California, but we have colleges out of state looking at our state and saying, “You know what? We can offer more to these students than the State of California. And that’s a problem,” he said.
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