Compton College President/CEO: California Community College Students Deserve More Support

Sara Goldrick-Rab

The following is from Keith Curry, President and CEO of Compton College (@iamkeithcurry)

Almost 60% of Compton College students are food insecure, 68% are housing insecure, and 18% of students are experiencing homelessness. Compton College is exploring all options to support our homeless students, including building residual housing on our campus.

On behalf of the Compton Community College District, I therefore support the budget requests submitted by Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel for funding to address the issue of homelessness among college students. In addition to the funding included in the Governor’s budget for the CSU and UC systems, it is imperative that $20 million be allocated for community colleges to address this need. I would also ask that these funds be allocated from the State’s general fund, rather than utilizing Proposition 98 funds already allocated for other essential activities.

In today’s economy, a post-secondary credential is essential. Nationwide over the past decade, the economy has gained 11 million jobs that require a post-secondary credential while simultaneously losing 5 million jobs that can be secured with a high school diploma or less. And yet, the gap in college completion rates between students from the bottom and top fifths of the income ladder has doubled since the 1970s. Today, those from the top fifth are now seven times more likely to graduate than those from the bottom fifth.

Contributing to this disparity is the fact that California is having a crisis in homelessness among its college students. The State’s public college and university systems are recognizing that growing housing insecurity among college students poses serious barriers to educational achievement. According to California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey Report, 19 percent of community college students said they experienced homelessness in the past year. Homelessness also disproportionately impacts particular student subgroups. Research has found that African American and Native American students as well as those with experience in foster care or who were veterans experienced significantly higher rates of homelessness than their peers.

California Governor Newsom

Not surprisingly, homelessness seriously impacts a student’s ability to remain in school and be successful. Despite this reality, California lacks any targeted intervention to prevent and end homelessness among college students. California can take steps to address the mounting crisis of homelessness among college students by establishing rapid rehousing resources within the Community College system. A $20 million annual investment in housing for homeless community college students would enable the system to provide stable housing to at least 1,500 students, removing a substantial barrier to degree completion for students with the greatest needs.

Access to higher education, whether a vocational certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or beyond, is critical to help low-income youth move out of poverty. For low-income students whose academic prospects are already precarious, the experience of homelessness is extremely destabilizing and makes college completion unlikely. In a 2018 survey, CSU students reported that experiencing homelessness negatively impacted all aspects of their lives. Stress permeated their academic success, physical and mental health, and personal relationships, because they were constantly looking for places to sleep.

On behalf of Compton Community College District and the students who we serve, I respectfully request $20 million from the State General Fund for the Reducing Homelessness Among College Students proposal.

To support Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel’s funding request, please write your California legislators now.

To find them, see www.findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Written by

*I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I’m changing the things I cannot accept.* Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology, Temple U.

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