Should community colleges build housing?

By Felicia Mello : calmatters – excerpt

…Think of a community college, and you’ll likely picture a commuter school with low-slung buildings and massive parking lots. And you’d be right—out of California’s 114 community colleges, only 11 offer on-campus housing. But some of those parking lots could soon become dormitories as community colleges look to build their own solutions to the state’s affordable housing crisis…

“Our thought was to have some housing on campus so our students can just concentrate on learning without worrying so much about, ‘Can I make rent?’ or ‘Where am I going to live?’ ” said Juan Gutierrez, public information officer for Orange Coast College.

Surveys showed the overwhelming majority of Orange Coast students was interested in living on campus, Gutierrez said. Half of the student body comes from outside Orange County, he said, with many avoiding the area’s steep cost of living by commuting from as far as San Diego or the Inland Empire. The project is set to open in the autumn of 2020…

Finding affordable solutions

Community college students facing similar dilemmas without the option of on-campus housing are increasingly resorting to couch-surfing or living in their cars. As state lawmakers debate measures that would allow homeless students to park overnight on campus and provide them with housing vouchers, building dorms offers an alternate path, one that colleges can pursue on their own…

Colleges as social service agencies

Despite the challenges, some advocates say providing housing is simply part of community colleges’ expanding mission. With rampant income inequality darkening the prospects for many young Californians, they say, colleges must play the role of social service agency if they want to remove the obstacles that can prevent students from graduating… (more)

This appears to be the crux of the matter. Should colleges get into businesses outside of their role and educators and take on social services and housing as well? Is this the proper use of administrators time and energies? How will expanding the role effect the primary purpose of providing education for community residents? Should this not be part of a larger conversation that informs the public and allows for more public involvement? Are these new roles taken on by administrators responsible for the outrageous increase in college tuition? Are these deviations in priorities not responsible for creating the problem they are trying to solve?

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