Recognizing the urgent need for student housing throughout the University of California system, as well as the inadequacies of the current funding system and the private market, students and campus groups from across the state are uniting to make UCs eligible for state-funded housing. This issue has a profound effect on the quality of a UC education and on our standard of living. So for all of those fed up with overpriced housing, listen up!
The cost of housing in Isla Vista has increased at an extraordinary rate. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 1999 was almost $375 per person. That same apartment in August 2000 cost $460. The university is planning to create only 1,500 beds for the 3,000 additional students expected by 2010, and the expense of housing is causing reluctance to build more. The university is not taking sufficient action. The private market is obviously not capable of dealing with our problem. Without the university working to reduce the pressure on the housing situation, students and families will have to confront an extraordinary cost of education.
So what is the obstacle? Since the regents consider housing a necessity, but not essential, housing is considered an auxiliary service, just like parking and food. Being considered an auxiliary means that something is not eligible for state funding and the university has to turn to private investors to borrow the money. These private investors make their money back by charging interest to the university. To cover this cost UCSB is increasing student dorm rates. As a result, students in university housing have to pay an added cost on their tuition to pay for housing. This has always been a UC practice, namely Business Policy 72. We believe that housing should not be considered an auxiliary service because it is just as fundamental to the university as a classroom or a new administration building. If the university can afford to use taxpayer money to finance world-renowned researchers and expensive administration buildings, then surely it could use some of those funds to help provide affordable housing for its student body.
People need to realize the consequences of the housing crisis. UCSB students living off-campus face annual increases of 20 to 25 percent. Consequently, many Isla Vista residents find housing an additional burden on their education. For students of less affluent backgrounds, the cost of housing has become a key factor in eliminating UCSB as a choice altogether. This result directly undermines the regents’ and the UC system president’s commitment to attract a more diverse student body. Currently 64 percent of UCSB students are of white background, compared only to 15 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 3 percent African American. Additionally, students who already attend UCSB confront accumulating debt.
Currently, 59 percent of UCSB undergraduates receive some form of financial aid through the university. Due to high rent rates, students are forced to direct more of their student loans into private housing costs, rather than focusing their limited incomes on education.
One has to remember that we’re not asking that the state finance all university housing, but for the option for UC schools to ask for state funding. Once the administration has that option, it will be much easier for the university to get funding. As a result, UCSB will be more likely to build more housing, which would limit the demand in I.V. Because of increased competition with the university, landlords will have to lower the rents. Because the university will be getting state funds, students in the dorms will not have to pay the interest and their student fees will be lower.
There are no statutes or laws in the state legislature that prohibit state funds from being used for housing. What needs to be changed is Business Policy 72 – the regents’ policy of financing housing through the sale of private bonds. Right now the Isla Vista Action Committee (IVAC), in conjunction with other groups on the other UC campuses, have gotten the issue on the calendar for the May regents’ meeting.
The UC system, as a public institution, has a moral obligation to ensure affordable living conditions and campus access for those it brings in. Housing cost is a significant factor when considering university education. By considering housing an auxiliary service, the university unnecessarily restricts the flow of housing funds while increasing the overall cost of education. As students, we will be contributing to the prosperity of this state. It is fair that the UC system accept its responsibility to provide for the future of California and the nation.
Marty Markovits is the President of the IVAC as well as a political science and English major.