The Residential Quad. Photo via On Campus Housing and Living.
Dec. 9, 2022 was a decisive day for students who applied for on-campus housing here at West Chester University. This was when students received an email determining whether or not they had advanced to Phase Two of the housing process.
Hundreds of students found themselves reading the words, “As a result of our randomized Housing Selection Process, at this time we are unable to offer you the opportunity to continue to Phase 2 in the WCU 2023-2024 Housing Application Process.” These students would be forced to look for housing options elsewhere.
In an email sent out on Feb. 10, 2023, President Fiorentino stated, “In previous years and much like other large universities, WCU students preferred to live on campus during their first and second years, and then off campus in their junior and senior years. At the same time, rental rates in area neighborhoods have increased significantly, resulting in returning students at WCU expressing a preference to live on campus longer. Similarly, many first-year classes at public universities are trending larger than usual as some students delayed their start date due to the pandemic.” This email offered an explanation for the extreme housing shortages, including an unexpected amount of students requesting on-campus housing, increasing rental costs and larger groups of first year students.
The fact is that West Chester is far from the only institution experiencing a housing crisis. Many colleges and universities across the country are facing issues with providing housing to students. Kevin Kruger, the President of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, stated that some of the main factors contributing to the housing shortage are “‘post-pandemic, pent-up demand’ and the national housing crisis driving up rent off campus.”
Florida A&M University as well as the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are just a few of the institutions struggling to house students. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “At Florida A&M University, there are over 500 freshmen and transfer students and over 800 upperclassmen on a wait list for on-campus housing, said President Larry Robinson.” Christy Jackson, senior director of communications at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte told The Charlotte Observer, “356 students put in deposits for university housing but still haven’t received their assignments.”
The struggle to find housing is extremely widespread. In fact, according to a Student Beans survey cited in CNBC, “1 in 5 college students have dealt with housing insecurity.”
It has been proven that housing struggles can drastically alter a student’s path in college. The same survey found that “[a]round 36% of students have thought about dropping out of school due to financial reasons, Student Beans found. That number jumps to 72% for students who’ve faced housing insecurity.”
Furthermore, according to Housing Matters, “[m]ore than half of students at two-year colleges and over 40 percent of students at four-year colleges experienced housing insecurity in 2020, and 14 percent experienced homelessness.” This rate of insecurity rose in 2021. Architectural Record stated that ”According to a 2021 report issued by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, about 52 percent of students at two-year colleges and 43 percent of students at four-year colleges experienced some form of housing insecurity during the 12 months preceding the survey, with disproportionate impacts on Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ students.”
The combination of rising insecurity and the damaging impacts this can have on students’ careers creates the devastating reality that we see today. Lack of access to stable, secure housing could mean the end of a student’s college career.
It is true that there are some barriers that make it more difficult to expand the amount of housing available. President Fiorentino names plans to construct a new dorm building by the Fall 2027 semester. Housing Matters also lists barriers such as lack of funding, construction costs, and the price of land.
Despite these barriers, the livelihoods and wellbeing of students is at risk here. There are real, devastating impacts on students’ individual lives when they do not have access to safe, stable housing, regardless of potential barriers and limits. There is no doubt about it — students across the country are facing a crisis, and housing is necessary in order to live and thrive.
RJ Jacobson is a fourth-year Political Science major with minors in English and Journalism. RJ923931@wcupa.edu.