Housing costs are on the rise across the US and show little sign of slowing down. In 2021, average rent costs increased by 14% nationally, and some cities saw increases of as much as 40%. This sharp uptick in cost is already having a particularly profound impact on financially vulnerable individuals, including the many postsecondary students already facing housing insecurity and homelessness.
Our work at Edquity has brought us in close contact with students contending with all varieties of basic needs insecurity. What we’ve learned is that while many areas of need are prevalent—transportation and food insecurity, in particular—housing is the most frequently cited by emergency aid applicants. Between March and November 2021, more than 56% of student applicants using Edquity reported facing housing challenges, with 21% experiencing homelessness.
According to research from The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, as many as 48% of students experienced housing insecurity in 2021; 14% of students experienced homelessness. Within these populations, students of color were most likely to experience food and housing insecurity as well as homelessness. At community colleges, which are more likely to serve low-income students and students of color, it’s perhaps unsurprising that students report higher rates of housing insecurity and homelessness — 52% in 2021. Particularly since they rarely have on-campus housing options available, these campuses have fewer tools available to support their students, leading to even greater urgency to address this critical basic need.
How can institutional leaders and policymakers take action to address the crisis of housing insecurity among their students?
Armed with information about the realities of student housing insecurity and homelessness, two and four-year institutions can design internal initiatives that better serve students in need. Our recommendations for institutional leaders include:
- Identifying students at risk of housing insecurity early on: Working with financial aid offices, those leading basic needs efforts can identify and reach out to students with elevated risk factors for basic needs and housing insecurities, including students with dependents and those coming from the foster system, soon after enrollment. By prioritizing awareness efforts early in the student experience, administrators can help students understand what resources are in place to support them over the course of their education.
- Developing closer relationships with housing authorities and community partners: Partnerships between higher education institutions and local housing authorities can help provide reliable, government-subsidized housing options to homeless and near-homeless students. A model can be found at Tacoma Community College in Washington, which has piloted its Community Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) with the Tacoma Housing Authority to connect students with housing vouchers.
- Creating basic needs resource centers: Basic needs centers serve as campus hubs where students can work with staff members to connect with resources provided by their schools as well government benefits. Schools can also provide virtual touchpoints on their websites to provide students to ensure that information is readily available and can be easily accessed. In Texas, Amarillo Community College has developed an Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC) to offer students the support they need to stay enrolled in their programs. The organization has worked to increase student use of the center by piloting innovative outreach efforts that target vulnerable populations, seeing a 34% increase in student visits.
Are you an administrator? Get in touch with us at email@example.com to learn more about how you can bring equitable emergency aid to your institution today.
Are you a student? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or click the blue bubble in the bottom-right corner of edquity.co for assistance.