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Housing Insecurity Among College Students

Housing insecurity is a relative term that refers to a variety of housing challenges that a person may face; this includes affordability, safety, as well as quality of housing (1).

Before COVID-19 hit, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers found that food and housing insecurity were two of the main factors that impacted whether or not students could complete their college coursework. While students living on campus were forced to leave during the pandemic, many of them did not have a secure place to go. This resulted in a large increase in food and housing insecurity among college students. The CARES Act that was passed in March 2020 aimed to help students struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many college students were not eligible to receive the stimulus checks that were awarded as a part of these funds.

There is significant social stigma surrounding housing insecurity and often college students feel reluctant to ask for assistance. Students don’t ask for help because they feel embarrassed by their circumstances. Boise State University is working hard to change that.

Studies have shown that experiencing housing insecurity can negatively impact your health. It can lead to or worsen asthma, depression, substance abuse, and other chronic illnesses. It surely also affects students’ abilities to focus on their studies. In response to this, some universities across the United States have implemented emergency and short-term housing programs to help students in need. Similarly, some universities have also partnered with local organizations in their community such as domestic violence shelters to provide emergency housing services to students (2). 

Based on a survey of 38,000 students, in 54 different institutions across the US, it was found that approximately 3 in 5 students struggle to meet their basic needs (3).

With such a large number of students in need, colleges and universities, local governments, as well as private philanthropies have provided students with a variety of emergency aid. Interestingly, reports have found that the majority of students that are in need, did not apply for emergency aid because they did not know that they were eligible to to do so. Only 15% of students that were experiencing various basic needs insecurities applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 60% of students figured that they would not be eligible for such a program, and around 13% of students said that they were not aware that such a program existed. Furthermore, 12% said they had no idea how to apply. In essence, this shows that many Universities have resources available to students facing basic need insecurity, however, they are struggling with how to best communicate as well as distribute the information regarding these services to their students (3).

Do you know about the basic need resources available on Boise State’s campus ?

  • Visit the Student Life Basics page on the Boise State website in order to view a comprehensive guide of services
    • Resources on this page include assistance for food and housing, physical and emotional well being, financial aid, as well as information regarding the student emergency fund
  • Any Boise state student who needs additional support and/or guidance can complete this form

What you can do to help:

  • You can aim to raise awareness about housing insecurity on college campuses by educating others and normalizing the experience
  • You can reach out to people who might be experiencing housing insecurity and share resources where they can access assistance
  • You can start funding campaigns to raise money for various programs that assist students facing housing insecurity
  • You must aim to be polite and friendly and never judge the experiences of others. This will help reduce the stigma around housing insecurity

The U.S. federal government has never collected specific information on housing insecurity from college students, however, they will begin to this Fall. This once invisible, yet major problem is finally being seen. Housing insecurity definitely undermines the hard work of students and also reduces the nation’s stock of educated labor when students are unable to complete their degrees. There is good news, however, as the national movement of students, faculty, college and community leaders, philanthropists, as well as many policymakers are working together to identify effective, efficient, as well as sustainable and long-lasting solutions to decrease homelessness as well as housing insecurity among college students.