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“I don’t know where I’m going to live if I don’t make it off the waitlist for the dorms,” a Fresno State freshman said to me.
In August 2021, Fresno State reported that it was at full capacity for the first time in several years. While this may sound exciting, it ultimately speaks to the extent of the current housing crisis in the Central Valley. The university only has 1,104 beds in its residence hall and supports an additional 1,000 students off campus.
This data suggests that Fresno State can accommodate only 5% of its student population in on-campus housing, despite a quarter of its students needing housing. That is why I believe Fresno State should increase its on-campus housing capacity by adding enough housing to support 30% of its roughly 24,000-student population. This will bring many benefits to the university and contribute to the overall socio-economic well-being of the Central Valley.
On Nov. 9, 2021, the California State University board of trustees approved the 2021-2022 Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, which will be submitted to the governor’s office for implementation. Each of the 23 California State University campuses submitted an affordable housing plan proposal in July 2020 with a request to renovate or add new housing to their campus. This comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom approved up to $2 billion in one-time funding over the next three years to support housing projects for full-time students enrolled in higher education. Luckily, the CSU system could start receiving $150 million of that funding beginning this year and a total of $600 million over the next three years.
Fresno State submitted two proposals: The first, a $48 million plan to add 225 new dorm rooms to the campus, and the second, $16 million to renovate 138 dorm rooms within one of its residence halls. While the CSU trustees rejected the request to renovate Baker Hall, they approved the plan to add 225 beds to campus as the number one priority to complete for the entire CSU-wide initiative.
However, this is not enough. Fresno State needs to expand its ability to provide food and housing support to more students.
Living on campus for at least one year has been proven to increase overall student well-being, feeling of belonging and academic success. A 2019 campus climate survey by the university shows that 46% of respondents worried about their housing situation sometimes, often, or very often, while 31% reported worrying about where their next meal would come from.
By providing additional housing and access to Fresno State’s dining hall, the university could remove the burden of searching for a place to live and supply reliable meals for many of its students. This, in turn, would provide more time for students to focus on their classes. As a result, Fresno State’s retention and graduation numbers could increase. Fresno State has nearly 25,000 students enrolled, and 57% report living within Fresno County.
The housing crisis in the Central Valley continues to grow at alarming rates, and adding more Fresno State student housing would decrease the need for housing in Fresno County more broadly. In November 2020, sociologists Amber Crowell and Janine Nkosi, reported a shortage of 35,000 to 41,000 affordable housing units in Fresno County, “where approximately 45 percent of households are renters.”
To make matters worse, the Guardian reported that rent in Fresno increased 26% during the pandemic. Increasing on-campus housing by 30% would save nearly 10,000 students from the competitive housing market. Moreover, the decrease of students in the housing market would have a direct relationship to the cost of rent in Fresno — all while promoting a great educational experience for the students.
Ultimately, the lack of Fresno State student housing will become more of an issue if we aren’t proactively working to create a better living experience for our students. It begins with the funding and effective implementation of the 2021-2022 Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program in order to immediately begin increasing student success, well-being and academic achievement.
Fresno State must continue to ask for more funding for housing over the next 10 years in order to meet student housing needs. As a result, this will benefit not only the campus community but also the greater Fresno population will reap the benefits of these much-needed improvements.
D’Aungillique Jackson is currently a student at Fresno State pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Most recently, she was the 2021-2022 president and CEO of Fresno State Associated Students Inc.
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