Addressing Student Housing Insecurity

August 16, 2018

Why Student Housing Insecurity?

Campus Compact is dedicated to creating equitable and accessible educational opportunities for all students by helping institutions of higher education to fulfill their public purposes. We recognize that one area often overlooked in current work is addressing the needs of students facing housing insecurity. Therefore, we embarked on a journey to help our network of member campuses nationwide build capacity to support students facing housing insecurity and homelessness.

After surveying 43,000 students at 35 four-year institutions and 31 two-year institutions across the country, Sara Goldrick-Rab and colleagues found that 36% of the students at four-year institutions and 46% of students at two-year institutions experienced housing insecurity, while 9% of students at four-year institutions and 12% of students at two-year institutions experienced homelessness within the last year (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2018, p. 3). Although the population of students attending two-year community colleges and four-year public and private institutions may differ, these results highlight the tremendous need for institutions of higher education to consider best practices to support college students facing housing insecurity and homelessness. The lack of a safe and secure living space when pursuing a post-secondary degree has the capacity to affect a student’s academic success and retention (Silva et al., 2017, p. 291).

Campus Compact offers these resources for member institutions seeking to find solutions to student homelessness and housing insecurity.

Student Housing Insecurity Mapping Tool

As part of our efforts to address student housing insecurity, we created the Student Housing Insecurity Mapping Tool (SHIM Tool). This tool serves as an inventory of the resources, programs, and services that institutions can offer to students facing housing insecurity and homelessness both on and off campus. We encourage members of campus communities to complete the tool and distribute the information collected to faculty, staff, and students. By publicizing the resources and supports available for students experiencing housing insecurity, colleges and universities can (1) destigmatize the experiences connected with student housing insecurity and homelessness, (2) create pathways and institutional procedures for colleges and universities to support students, and (3) allow students to access the available resources more easily.

Do you have questions about the  Student Housing Insecurity Mapping Tool? Contact Maggie Grove for information sessions and one-on-one consultations at

The Landscape of Student Housing Insecurity and Homelessness

To understand the scope of student housing insecurity within the Campus Compact network, we used the SHIM Tool to survey 50 member campuses that represent a variety of institution types: rural and urban, public and private, two-year and four-year. A report on this investigation, “The Landscape of Student Housing Insecurity and Homelessness: A Survey of our Network,” highlights our findings.

Campus Programs

Are you interested in developing more programs and resources for students struggling with housing insecurity and homelessness? Get inspired by examples from member institutions throughout the country.

College Housing Assistance Program at Tacoma Community College

Tacoma Community College and Tacoma Housing Authority forged a partnership in which Tacoma Housing Authority provides rental assistance for students that face homelessness or housing insecurity. Additionally, students receive on-campus case management support. Students can participate in the program for three years or the length of time it takes for degree completion, whichever comes first, provided they make academic progress.

Campus Awareness, Resource, and Empowerment (CARE) Services at Kennesaw State University

 The CARE services assist students experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, and students that were formerly in the foster care system. The CARE office collaborates with other offices on campus such as Admissions, Financial Aid, and Residence Life to serve students in need. The CARE team offers a variety of supports such as referrals to on-campus and off-campus housing and case management.

The HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program at Wayne State University

The HIGH Program is designed to meet the needs of financially-burdened students and help them reach graduation. The program provides housing support, financial support for textbooks and school supplies, clothing, transportation assistance, and child-care assistance. Additionally, the program offers the opportunity for individuals to support and sponsor students by donating funds to pay for students’ tuition and living expenses.

Thrive Financial Success Center at Holyoke Community College

 The Thrive Center is committed to supporting students in their own financial well being and success. The center offers supports and resources to students experiencing housing insecurity by referring students to affordable and emergency housing options, maintaining partnerships with off-campus residential programs for individuals between the ages of 18-24, and providing information about the shelters within the area. Additionally, staff in the office guide students through the process of applying for affordable housing and then following up if they were placed on the waitlist. The Thrive Center also has a working relationship with a local credit union that offers students checking accounts and teaches students how to build the credit history that may be needed to apply for housing.

The Guardian Scholars Program at San José State University

 The Guardian Scholars Program offers academic, personal development, housing, and financial support to students involved in the foster care system or are unaccompanied homeless youth. The program is designed for students under the age of 27. The office assists students in finding year round housing on- campus and housing during break periods.

Students 4 Students at UCLA (formerly known as the Bruin Shelter)

Students 4 Students, formerly known as the Bruin Shelter, is a homeless shelter run by students for students experiencing homelessness while attending any higher education institution in the Los Angeles area. The shelter is registered as a UCLA campus organization and has nine beds for students experiencing homelessness. The organization also offers case management and support to students seeking permanent housing, counseling services, and medical and dental checkups.

Dax Host Home Program at DePaul University

The Dax Host Home Program in Chicago is part of DePaul USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting individuals facing homelessness. The Dax Host Home Program in Chicago has partnered with DePaul University to assist students facing housing insecurity and homelessness, with a particular focus in assisting students that are in their third and fourth years of study. The program offers housing, case management, transportation, food and book stipends, and educational reimbursements to students facing housing insecurity and homelessness. Specifically, the Dax Program places students in host-homes, rented apartments or rooms, donated dorms, or in the Dax House which currently houses four DePaul students.

Southern Scholarship Foundation 

The Southern Scholarship Foundation offers rent-free housing to students with financial need and high academic achievement in Florida. The foundation offers housing to students attending Flagler College in Tallahassee, Florida A&M University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida State University, Santa Fe College, Tallahassee Community College, and University of Florida. Students can apply to live in one of the 27 houses that are fully furnished and must also participate in communal living which involves chores and other household responsibilities, such as meal planning and preparation.

California State University: Basic Needs Initiative

The California State University system has been leading institutions of higher education in studying the prevalence of basic needs insecurities on their own campuses. The California State University Basic Needs Initiative page provides links and resources for students facing food and housing insecurity on California State University campuses. For example, the page outlines programs and resources at the Long Beach campus and San Diego campus designed specifically for students facing housing insecurity and homelessness. Such services include the Short Term Housing Assistance program and the resources provided by the Economic Crisis Response Team.

Annotated Bibliography

The bibliography below includes sources for faculty, staff, and students that are interested in addressing and learning more about student housing insecurity. Three key resources for each of these subsections are provided below.

I. Literature on Students Experiencing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity

These resources are helpful for individuals that are interested in learning more about the landscape and policies that affect housing insecurity for students within higher education.

Casey Family Programs offers a comprehensive overview of the challenges that former foster youth experience when pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities. Researchers list resources that should be available to assist former foster care students such as designating a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) on campus and providing year-round housing options. 

This report from the Schoolhouse Connection provides insight into barriers that continue to exist for unaccompanied homeless youth and students facing housing insecurity. Such barriers include age restrictions and the lack of clarity on documentation needed to confirm homeless status for students when filing the FAFSA report. 

Researchers at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab illuminate the importance of meeting students’ basic needs in order to support degree completion and success. Goldrick-Rab and Broton discuss the factors that limit a student’s ability to find safe and secure housing, such as lacking rental history, lacking enough savings to pay for a security deposit, and not knowing anyone who can act as a guarantor when leasing an apartment. 

II. Research Discussing the Prevalence of Housing Insecurity on Campuses

These studies present evidence of students struggling to meet their housing needs while attending a college or university.

Researchers at the Wisconsin Hope Lab surveyed 43,000 students at 66 two-year and four-year institutions in the country and found that 36% of students at four-year institutions and 46% of students at two-year institutions faced housing insecurity within the past year. Further, 9% of students at four-year institutions and 12% of students at two-year institutions faced homelessness within the past year. 

This study evaluates the presence of food and housing insecurity on 70 community college campuses. Surveys from 33,000 community college students indicate that half of community college students face housing insecurity while 13-14% face homelessness.

Researchers report findings from a food and housing insecurity study that survey 3,647 community college students in California. Results indicate that 32.8% of the students experience housing insecurity. The report lists interventions that can be used to relieve some of the burden for students. 

III. Program Development and Assessment of Resources

These sources are useful for faculty, staff, and students that are interested in researching the prevalence of basic needs insecurity on a campus and developing or assessing an emergency aid program at an institution.

In response to the study commissioned by the Chancellor’s office at California State University, researchers develop survey materials and tools to study food and housing insecurity on university campuses. This document includes several instruments that are used by researchers to interview and survey faculty, staff, administrators, and students to assess the prevalence of food and housing insecurity.

The Hope Lab presents the definitions of food insecurity and housing insecurity and the best tools used to measure the conditions on a campus. Researchers provide step-by-step instructions describing how to collect data on the prevalence of basic needs insecurity and how to evaluate program effectiveness.

This report discusses the types of emergency aid programs that exist on campuses and the communication pathways used to inform students about restrictions and eligibility requirements to apply for this aid. Researchers outline the important program elements in an emergency aid system that involve administrative, communicative, and funding-related components.

Presentations and Webinar Recordings

Newman Civic Fellows Webinar:
Food and Housing Insecurity on Campuses

Student Housing Insecurity Webinar: Best Practices for Faculty

Presentation on Housing Inequities from Campus Compact National Conference

If you are interested in accessing webinar recordings that are not listed above, please contact Maggie Grove at

Campus Compact would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations that contributed their time, energy, and resources consulting on the construction of the Student Housing Insecurity Initiative. We extend special thanks to the following individuals and their commitment to creating viable post-secondary educational opportunities for all individuals.

Danielle Leek: Bunker Hill Community College

Juan Regalado: University of La Verne

Annie Ciaraldi: University of Massachusetts Lowell

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