Source: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

April 29, 2022 (El Cajon) – For the first time, Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges will explore building affordable housing for students. The new initiative is funded by a pair of $150,000 state grants received by colleges, allowing college leaders to seriously consider ways to provide secure housing for students in need.

The grants will fund various financial, architectural and environmental impact studies. Later state subsidies would finance the construction of housing.

“Lodging is a key factor in student success,” Lynn Neault, District Chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College. “If you’re hungry or haven’t slept well, it will be a huge challenge to focus on college. This grant gives us the resources to carefully consider options for providing our students with affordable housing. »

The community college district sets aside funds for emergency housing for students in need, including vouchers for hotels, and meets other basic needs through campus pantries and distributions of food.

This is believed to be the first time the district has considered building affordable housing for students. None of the colleges are equipped or staffed for traditional dormitories, so feasibility studies will focus on other housing options. Colleges will explore public-private partnerships with companies that could build and manage affordable housing.

Very few community colleges in California offer student housing. Those that do are mostly located in remote rural areas. But as concerns about housing insecurity across the state grew, community colleges began to explore the idea of ​​building their own homes.

The grants are funded by California’s SB 169, which is providing $500 million to the Higher Education Student Housing Subsidy Program this year. The program supports new student housing or the renovation of commercial properties into affordable, low-cost housing for students in the University of California, California State University, and California Community College systems.

For the 2021-22 fiscal year, the California Department of Finance approved 75 planning grant applications totaling about $18.2 million — all to community colleges. Grossmont and Cuyamaca are part of this group. The Treasury Department also approved about $470.3 million in grants for construction projects on eight campuses of the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems.

An additional $750 million is expected to be allocated to the program in the state’s 2022-23 fiscal year and another $750 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Housing insecurity is a serious and ongoing crisis in the San Diego area, one of the nation’s most expensive for real estate. The problem can be particularly acute among students. At Grossmont College, several student populations are more at risk of housing insecurity than the general population. These populations include low-income students, who make up 55% of Grossmont’s 14,000 students; racially marginalized groups, which make up about 70%; Latinx students, who represent 39%; and students from the Middle East, who make up approximately 10% of all immigrant and refugee students at the college. Grossmont College’s more than 400 students who are former foster youth and nearly 800 students who are veterans are also considered to be at high risk for housing insecurity.

Cuyamaca College has a similar student profile. Of the college’s 9,000 students, 58% are low-income; 34% identify as Latinx; almost 15% are immigrants or refugees from the Middle East; 4% are active duty military; and 4% are veterans. All of these groups are at higher risk of housing insecurity compared to the general population.

The grants will allow colleges to assess demand for affordable student housing and consider other services colleges could provide, including mental health and transportation services.

“Meeting the basic needs of our students is critical to ensuring their success, and that includes mental and physical health, nutrition, childcare, and other needs,” Neault said.

The two colleges in the district, Grossmont College in El Cajon and Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, together enroll approximately 24,000 students.

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