SACRAMENTO – According to a new report released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, seven in 10 students responding to the survey experienced food or housing insecurity, or homelessness during the previous year.
The California Community College #RealCollege Survey evaluated access to affordable food and housing at 57 schools in the California Community College system in the fall of 2016 and 2018. #RealCollege revealed stark variation across regions with food insecurity at California community colleges ranging from 38 to 59 percent across regions, while rates of homelessness vary by region from approximately 15 to 24 percent.
In Cabrillo College’s Region B, which is comprised of the East Bay, Mid-Peninsula, North Bay, Santa Cruz/Monterey and Silicon Valley, 59 percent of the student respondents experience housing insecurity and 20 percent experience homelessness, while 43 percent experience food insecurity.
“Homelessness and poverty are structural problems that confront many of our students on a daily basis,” said Matt Wetstein, Superintendent and President of Cabrillo College and one of 14 CEO's participating on the statewide Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce. “The data from this survey documents how widespread these challenges are, especially in a region like Santa Cruz County where housing affordability is a critical issue."
The survey also uncovered that there are sizable racial/ethnic disparities in basic needs insecurity among California community college students. The report highlights rates of food insecurity among students identifying as African American or Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native exceeding 60 percent — a rate 10 percent higher than rates for Hispanic or Latinx students, and almost 20 percent higher than rates for students identifying as White or Caucasian.
“California Community College trustees are committed to identifying multi-pronged, targeted approaches to the housing, food and affordability challenges confronting our students,” said Jim Moreno, Chair of the California Community College League Board and Trustee at Coast Community College District.
Results of the #RealCollege survey supports recommendations put forward by the Community College League of California’s Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce. The Taskforce is supporting Senate Bill 291 introduced by state Sen. Connie M. Levya (D-Chino), a bill sponsored by the California Community College Board of Governors and co-sponsored by the Community College League of California. The bill would establish a California Community College Student Financial Aid program that would base aid on the total cost of attendance, including housing, transportation and textbooks.
“Our CEO task force came together in recognition of the difficult issues students are facing in our system," Wetstein said. "That is why one of our major recommendations as college leaders is that community college students deserve a larger share of financial aid dollars from the state to address the true cost of attending college. Their spending on books, transportation and meals should be considered part of their entire financial aid package — and not just tuition dollars."
In a joint statement by Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce chairs Pam Luster, President of San Diego Mesa College and Keith Curry, President of Compton College said, “We are proud to collaborate with college leaders statewide who are proactively engaged in discussions and interventions to alleviate the basic needs insecurities that affect our students. Our work is far from over, but as a coalition, we know we can find real solutions.”
The Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce has also announced the launch of the #RealCollegeCalifornia network. The inaugural #RealCollegeCalifornia will serve as a coalition of colleges that aim to share best practices focused on meeting students’ basic needs, which will receive strategic planning support from the Hope Center.
For information on the Community College League of California Affordability, Food & Housing Taskforce visit ccleague.org/affordability-taskforce. For the full report go to hope4college.com/reports/.