Guest commentary: Here’s what UC San Diego is doing to help students and staff with housing on and off campus
Eight years ago, UC San Diego set into motion ambitious plans to expand on-campus housing.
We know that students who live on campus are more engaged, more focused and more likely to complete their degrees sooner, thus saving them time and expense. We also know that, at UC San Diego, housing constitutes more than 50 percent of the total cost of education. Our 2014 strategic plan introduced strategies to enhance the student experience while lowering costs and increasing access to a UC education.
The other day I found myself standing in a long line on Morena Boulevard in the Bay Park neighborhood of San Diego that snaked around the apartment complex we were all interested in.
During the past 10 years, to accommodate the growing needs of Californians, UC San Diego has increased its enrollment. We also expanded our housing strategy to support increased enrollment and committed to working toward a four-year housing guarantee at 20 percent below market rate for graduate and undergraduate students.
Since then, UC San Diego has opened 3,530 new beds for graduate students and 2,000 new beds for undergraduate students. With 18,022 total beds on campus today, UC San Diego ranks third in the nation for student housing inventory, just behind Penn State University and UCLA.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to remove triple-occupancy rooms for health concerns, which reduced our on-campus inventory by roughly 2,000 beds. And when students returned to in-person instruction the following year, the off-campus rental prices had increased by 30 percent. High prices off campus sent demand for on-campus housing soaring.
All of these factors converged to create what appeared to be a perfect housing storm for our students. In spite of our significant progress toward our housing goal, today we face a considerable shortage. We are aware that finding housing at affordable prices is becoming increasingly difficult for our students, staff and faculty.
In response, we have enhanced our strategies to address the housing shortage.
Starting in fall 2023, three new on-campus housing neighborhoods will open in successive years, adding 5,300 new undergraduate beds by 2025. Plans to replace older housing with new living and learning neighborhoods will increase on-campus housing by at least 10,000 beds by 2035.
UC San Diego is also investing in off-campus housing for staff and faculty, expanding our inventory of at- or below-market rentals. Our Hillcrest campus redevelopment plan includes 1,000 new apartments, and plans are underway to build staff and faculty housing on the east side of our La Jolla campus.
We are also investing in other properties within walking distance of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley. We are in escrow on a property in downtown San Diego that will provide 87 furnished apartments for staff and faculty, and we are in talks for two other properties that could house up to 1,250 more staff and faculty.
This fall we will add 700 beds by reinstituting triple occupancy in select rooms, increasing capacity and providing more cost-effective solutions to our students.
To further reduce the cost of housing and therefore the cost of education, I have worked successfully with the UC regents and state legislators to develop the new $2 billion Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program that is helping to build new student housing across California. UC San Diego recently received a $100 million grant from the program, which will be leveraged to lower rates up to 55 percent below market for 1,100 low-income California resident students.
Through UC San Diego’s Off-Campus Housing Office, students can schedule consultations to review off-campus housing options and find move-in and move-out resources. The university’s off-campus housing website [offcampushousing.ucsd.edu] features current listings, house-hunting tips, a roommate-finder tool and access to assistance from our dedicated off-campus housing team.
UC San Diego has also partnered with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District to offer students the Triton U-Pass, providing subsidized transit on the Coaster, Rapid 237 express bus and trolley. U-Pass provides direct, cost-effective access to housing options near rapid transit throughout the county.
According to a 2016 PowerStats national postsecondary student aid study, only 32 percent of America’s college students live in campus-owned housing. Beating national trends, UC San Diego currently houses 39 percent of our undergraduate students and 49 percent of our graduate students.
It is our goal to house 50 percent of all students by 2025 and to keep making progress toward a four-year housing guarantee at 20 percent below market rate. Building housing that students, staff and faculty can afford will continue to be a top priority.
Pradeep Khosla is the chancellor of UC San Diego and lives in La Jolla. ◆
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