California Competes’s Analysis of the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program


Students consistently name the cost of college as a main barrier to enrollment and completion. To enable current students, along with a critical mass of the Californians with no college degree to attend college (3.9 million of whom have children), the state must help them with their greatest college cost—housing. Housing accounts for 43% of UC, 57% of CSU, and 68% of CCC students’ anticipated cost of attendance. Investments in affordable student housing must be designed for current and potential students who stop out or forgo higher education because they lack housing that meets their needs, such as apartment-style units over shared dormitories. Further, building affordable housing allows campuses to better control student’s out-of-pocket costs and better integrate campus-based services to help them succeed.

California Competes analyzed the 35 approved project applications in the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program (HESHG) to assess how they will help meet the needs of current and prospective students. Once occupied, the projects will provide affordable student housing to more than 11,200 low-income students each year, including at least 195 student parents and their families. Based on our analysis and findings, we encourage the following action to ensure these historic investments propel student enrollment and success.

  • Right Now: Ensure state investments meet the design needs of current and future students, many of whom have families and may attend more than one college on their degree journey.
  • Ongoing Operation: Drive efficient implementation of all student housing investments, such as by providing technical assistance to colleges in developing and operating college housing and analyzing the offerings and impact of new housing investments.
  • Looking to the Future: Review annual legislative housing reports and make a plan to address unmet housing needs that leverages campus, local, state, federal, and philanthropic resources.
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