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The Housing Crisis Impacts More People Than You Think

More than 43% of all college students “experience some form of housing insecurity”

Although some colleges are facing a decline in enrollments, others are experiencing an increase resulting from students returning after taking a year off due to the pandemic. Many of the schools seeing a post-COVID bump are struggling with a lack of on-campus housing. The result has been longer campus housing waiting lists and more students needing off-campus housing. With rental prices in many parts of the country skyrocketing, housing insecurity among college students has become a significant issue.

In places like California, the problem is particularly acute. According to a recent Washington Post article, Alex Niles, 21, a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara who is chair of government relations for the University of California Student Association is quoted as saying, “There were students living in illegal subleases and garages, way too many students sleeping in cars parked on the street, or couch-surfing. It’s common to have 13 students to a house,” he said, with bunk beds cramming four or more students into a room. “Rents are sky-high."

But California is by no means alone. According to a national survey conducted by The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice and reported in U.S. News and World Report, “Fifty-two percent of students at two-year colleges experienced some form of housing insecurity in fall 2020, along with 43% of students at four-year institutions.” This was a 23% year-over-year increase and the problem has only gotten worse The data from this and other surveys also confirm structural racism as it relates to housing (and food) insecurity. Being housing insecure may also increase the risk of suffering mental health and physical health issues. There is no doubt it affects academic outcomes and retention.

An article on Fierce Education identifies four ways that colleges can address the student housing crisis. The most notable of these is the need for schools to develop closer “relationships with housing authorities and community partners.” This has not been a common practice in higher education but this is a good example of the benefit to colleges of developing more strategic partnerships.

I have commented in other posts that higher education is focused on student wellness, and this is no doubt the case. Many schools post information for students on how to address housing insecurity or links to helpful resources. However, due to inflation and other financial pressures “…..colleges and universities need creative solutions and strategic partnerships to support students’ basic needs.” according to a Timely MD article Higher education must break industry norms and pursue creative solutions if they are to be successful in addressing the student housing crisis and improving student wellness in general.

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