University housing challenges extend to faculty and staff

The shortage of affordable accessories Student, faculty, and staff housing has been a long-standing issue for colleges and universities in densely populated areas such as Southern California and New York City, but a spike in housing costs caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a national problem for higher education institutions.

The rising costs of renting and buying a home can be especially difficult for faculty and staff who are burdened with student debt. In a 2021 survey by the National Education Association (NEA) of more than 400 college professors, 46% said they paid off their student debt. Of more than 250 higher education support professionals — whom the survey classifies as graduate teaching and research assistants — 57% said they make student loan repayments. Because people of color are even more likely to have student debt and in larger amounts than their white counterparts, underrepresented faculty are disproportionately burdened with these loans, according to the NEA.

With these considerations in mind, more and more faculty and staff are prioritizing the cost of living, and in particular housing, when seeking employment. As a result, universities located in locations where affordable housing is scarce are feeling the effects on their employee recruitment and retention efforts. This has been the case for California State University, East Bay (CSUEB), located in Hayward near the San Francisco Bay, which has some of the highest housing prices in the country.

Cathy Sandin

“If we have professors who resign to take up a position elsewhere, we often hear that the cost of living is better where [they are] going, so that’s a factor,” says CSUEB President Cathy Sandeen, PhD. “And with regard to people who decide not to accept jobs [with CSUEB], they will say that the salary is not high enough. Sometimes we can increase it a bit, but often when they look at their total cost of living, housing is a big part of it.

The CSUEB Faculty and Staff Housing Task Force, established in 2019, is working to address some of these issues for university employees. It is currently conducting a market demand survey to determine if there is interest in developing on-campus housing for workers and students with families, according to Martin Castillo, EdD, task force co-chair and vice-president. Deputy Chair of Campus Life at CSUEB. . The university is also considering offering transitional housing options to provide some security for faculty and staff seeking long-term solutions.

Martin Castillo

Across the country, many other higher education institutions are also exploring strategies to cover housing costs for their workforce. Several schools, such as Temple University in Philadelphia and the University of Washington in Seattle, have programs in place to help employees make down payments on new homes. Fort Lewis College, located in Durango, Colorado, adopted this approach in late 2021 after a survey found faculty and staff were concerned about exorbitant housing prices in the area. To date, the college has invested $1 million in its aid program.

For some colleges, however, the most direct solution is to simply build more housing. It is not easy for all the institutions, because it depends on the available resources, funding and land. One school that has been successful in this endeavor is San Jose State University in California, which announced plans in 2020 to convert a state office building near campus into a housing development with 800 to 1,200 residential units for faculty, staff, graduate students and students. with families. New The development, which will be available for sale at below-market rates, is expected to be completed by 2025, then-university president Mary Papazian told a news conference. Papazian went on to describe the need for housing as “one of the most pressing issues of our time”.

At CSUEB, Sandeen echoes that sentiment and says it’s vital for institutions to tackle barriers to housing head-on before they become serious impediments to recruiting and retaining employees.

“It’s not a problem that’s going away,” says Sandeen. “This is a problem that awaits us today and which is likely to get worse.”

She says it’s also important to develop partnerships with local community organizations that are working to change laws and policies to allow more affordable housing to be built. “It’s a huge problem for us to be able to retain these really essential people. [faculty and staff] posts,” says Sandeen. “It’s our job to think about what we can do to help employees who have these housing issues.”

Lisa O’Malley is the associate editor of OVERVIEW of diversity.

California State University, East Bay is a 2014-2019 OVERVIEW of diversity Recipient of the HEED award (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity).

This article originally appeared in our June 2022 issue.

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