Housing Costs May Undermine College Graduation

Housing Costs May Undermine College Graduation
Lynn M. Ross, Rachelle L. Levitt, Chase Sackett
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While the rise in college tuition draws attention, housing costs for college students have also increased. High housing costs create barriers for low- and middle-income students to obtain a college degree, and the current federal subsidy programs are not well-equipped to help full-time students meet their housing needs. Understanding and addressing the housing needs of college students is particularly important since at least 56,000 college students are homeless and more than one in four undergraduate or community college students are raising dependent children while attending school.

The report covers college housing costs, the impact on students, and examples of promising programs from Single Stop USA and the Tacoma Housing Authority.

Major findings:

  • Institutions' reasonable cost of living allowances, which determine student aid eligibility, are often inaccurate and do not reflect the true cost of living in a certain locale. Insufficient financial aid has been connected with students' working more hours, forgoing key resources, and reduced rates of graduation.
  • Large shares of college students may face unsustainable housing costs that threaten their educations. For example, nearly 42 percent of students at the City University of New York (CUNY) reported that they were housing instable in 2011.
  • The inflation-adjusted cost of room and board rose 54 percent at four-year public colleges between the academic years of 1994-5 and 2013-14.
  • The privatization of student housing and increased demand for LEED-certified student housing may be leading to higher costs.
  • 52 percent of students living off-campus (but not with family) had incomes below the poverty level, according to Census data from 2009 to 2011. These students often face barriers to accessing federal housing assistance.