The coronavirus pandemic is shifting the nature of education in the United States. While many schools initially planned to fully reopen in the fall, spiking COVID-19 cases have forced them to reevaluate. With approximately 640,000 confirmed cases in California and 224,000 in Los Angeles County, schools in California have had to examine the correct path forward for the health and safety of their students. In the Los Angeles area, schools like the University of Southern California, Occidental, and the Claremont colleges have released decisions to hold online classes again for the fall semester, while UCLA is making about 92% of classes remote. The Los Angeles Unified School District has also chosen not to reopen public schools until further notice.
As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded in unpredictable ways, schools have had to monitor the situation closely and send periodic updates to students. These decisions have often been sudden and left many college students scrambling to make housing plans for the fall. Across the U.S., even at universities that are reopening with in-person classes, many are revising their previous plans for on-campus housing and restricting student access.
The need for these last-minute changes poses great difficulty for students with housing insecurity or issues living with family. Although many colleges offer certain exceptions for those with significant housing issues, these spots for on-campus housing are extremely limited. In cities like Los Angeles where off-campus housing options are already minimal and rent is unsustainably high, it is especially difficult to find living space during this pandemic.
Georgetown University is one such school where issues have arisen surrounding student housing. A little over a week before resident assistants were set to move in, the University announced that it would not allow any in-person classes. This decision left RAs without any guaranteed housing for the coming year just a few weeks before classes began. It also meant that the university would reconsider their financial aid packages.
Jo Matta (Georgetown College, 2023) was especially concerned for her LGBTQ+ peers. “It leaves me incredibly stressed, especially for friends who might on paper look like they’re doing fine, but they are queer students in homophobic homes,” Matta conveyed.
Housing insecurity is a huge issue for college students. A study by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, which surveyed nearly 86,000 students, reported that 56% of respondents were housing insecure in the past year, at even higher rates for the students who self-identified as LGBTQ+. Many students struggle to afford housing as they go to college, often having to work outside of school at minimum wage, which is especially insufficient in cities like Los Angeles with exorbitant rent prices and limited housing availability.
The pandemic has posed unique challenges to young people who often already struggle to find secure housing. The policies that Abundant Housing LA suggests, like raising money for affordable homes and making it easier to build homes, are even more vital in a time of crisis like the one we are living.