Overlooked academics

Temple University’s College of Education points to impact of housing crisis on students in Sacramento and across state

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the March 14, 2019, issue.

Eating and having a roof over one’s head has become increasingly difficult for a large number of community college students across California. The problem is particularly bad in the Sacramento region, according to a new study by Temple University’s College of Education.

Based on a survey of some 40,000 students at 57 colleges in 2016 and 2018, researchers determined that about 50 percent of community college students had recently experienced food insecurity in the last year, while 60 percent experienced housing insecurity and 19 percent experienced flat-out homelessness. The study identified the Sacramento region as one of the top three areas for having the highest incidence of basic needs not being met.

Another alarming finding of the study is that the homelessness, hunger and housing fears aren’t generally being caused by students prioritizing grades over having jobs.

“The California community college students experiencing basic needs insecurity are overwhelmingly part of the labor force,” the authors said in a statement “For example, the vast majority (84 percent) of students who experienced food insecurity were employed or looking for work.”

The numbers from Temple University mirrored other grim statistics that have recently come to light in Sacramento. In 2017, Sacramento State University estimated it had 3,600 homeless students. During that same year, the school districts in Sacramento County counted 10,181 K-12 students experiencing homelessness.

Scott Crow, public information officer for American River College, said the Los Rios district is well aware of the Temple report. He said that staff try to use the CalWORKs program, which gives financial support to struggling students, and the state-funded CARE program, which offers assistance to single-parent students.

Crow also said another important tool could be a new legislative proposal, Senate Bill 291, which bolsters financial support to community college students beyond tuition.

“It’s really good legislators are looking at how these issues affect our students,” Crow said. “You can’t do well in your class if you’re having trouble finding a place to live.”