UC Santa Barbara implemented a housing voucher program earlier this fall for students struggling to pay their rent in full.
The vouchers are certificates given to students, redeemable through University and Community Housing Services (UCHS), according to Mario Muñoz, Associate Director for UCHS.
The vouchers come in amounts of $25, $100 and $500. A student must first provide documentation that all other options have been exhausted in order to qualify.
The vouchers are meant to assist students that are suffering through a one-time housing emergency that could force them to relocate, jeopardizing their education at UCSB.
According to Miller, five students have been assisted by the program already and that number is expected to rise.
The program is a joint partnership between Housing, Dining & Auxiliary Services, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships and the Financial Crisis Response Team, according to Mike Miller, assistant vice chancellor for Enrollment Services.
The funding comes from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
The program works to estimate and assess the needs of students. It also serves to identify students who might be experiencing more systematic financial difficulties so as to direct them to resources that can provide them assistance.
“It is an effort to help address the growing basic need requests we have been seeing here on our campus, which unfortunately is a national trend due to the increasing cost of higher education,” Miller said in an email.
A process will be in place to notify landlords that a student is working with the housing voucher program, said Miller. Communication between landlords and the program is key to buying the student time to receive funds.
“I’m hopeful our relationships in those areas will be fruitful in buying us the time needed to sort through these issues which can sometimes be complicated,” Miller said.
Resources from UCHS will be utilized in the program, such as UCHS mediators that are in place to settle disputes between tenants and landlords.
Each case is carefully addressed and verified through the Financial Crisis Response Team to prevent misuse of the vouchers, Miller said.
The vouchers are also either directed into the student’s BARC account or addressed as checks to their landlord, Muñoz said. No cases of misuse have been reported yet.
The housing voucher program is the first step in creating a safety net program for students struggling financially, Miller said.
“When we make programs like this, I want to make sure they’re sustainable long-term, so we’re not just offering a service for a couple of years, then seeing it go away,” Miller said.
“We really need to see what kind of volume we’re going to see and go from there.”
Students can submit an application to the Financial Crisis Response Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of the article appeared on p.3 of the Nov. 15 print edition of the Daily Nexus.