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Experience

The student news site of Los Medanos College

Experience

The student news site of Los Medanos College

Experience

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The Affordable Student Housing Project pauses its progress

Changes to the 2023 Budget Act cut back funding
LMCs+housing+project+outlines+the+proposed+location+of+the+dorm+building+in+Lot+A.+
LMC’s housing project outlines the proposed location of the dorm building in Lot A.

Los Medanos College unveiled last spring plans to incorporate housing on campus have stalled. The college’s Affordable Student Housing Project application was announced May 10 during a Contra Costa Community College Governing Board meeting. Updates were provided June 14, but a funding source still wasn’t identified causing the project to reach a standstill.

Back in 2021, California’s Budget Act initially offered college districts access to planning grants, and when the Contra Costa district applied, its three campuses – LMC, DVC and CCC – were evaluated. After a discussion of demand and competitiveness for the funding, LMC was chosen to move ahead with the planning grant for a proposed student housing project. 

“When you look at the basic needs of our students, housing is one of the three main components and it can also be a significant source of stress,” Vice President of Business and Administrative Services Carlos Montoya said. “When you think of what student housing represents for our students, it’s important to be able to provide that stability.”

LMC completed its project proposal to house up to 267 students and submitted it to the state at the end of spring, but changes to the 2023 Budget Act removed funding for such projects. This original state budget proposed would have provided LMC with the chance to receive funding for the housing project through the General Fund, but that source has been eliminated. 

The total estimated cost for the LMC housing project, according to the proposal, will be $78.151 million. Funding for the program is now expected to change and be converted from a state grant to a loan instead.

Nothing has been finalized but Montoya said there are still ways LMC can get money to fund this project.

One option is lease-revenue bonds, which provide support debt service for student housing projects in the years 2022-23 and 2023-24, meaning funds would be provided to construct, but the housing would also need to generate revenue to pay the bond back. 

The second option is to request a one-time $200 million loan in General Funds for the California Student Housing Revolving Loan Fund, which provides zero-interest loans for student housing construction. However, the application would be highly competitive for LMC as the budget only designates 25% of the budget for community college district applications, with the rest allocated to other college systems.  

“One of the things the state is advocating for is changes to some of the financial aid legislation so that student housing cost at the community college level could be incorporated just like it is for UC and CSUs,” said Montoya. 

Proposed construction plans feature a three-story, 267-bed student housing complex that will consist of two types of occupancy: 51 single and 108 double, dorm-style rooms that will all be priced below market rates. Additionally, there will be a variety of student engagement and support spaces, including counselor office spaces, tutoring/study areas, communal kitchens and a Basic Needs Center. 

As the proposal was developed a variety of student input was gathered and one of the focus group members said “student housing would bring about more campus activity and student life, there would be a lot more involvement.”

To capture the need for campus housing, students expressed support in a short, confidential survey sent out at the beginning of spring 2023. Over 2,000 responses were recorded and included information about students residing in college, living locations and conditions. 

“We know that our students are housing insecure,” President Pamela Ralston said. “As servant leaders, we seek to find opportunities to leverage various funding opportunities to explore projects and initiatives that serve our students.” 

The data also developed an enrollment profile with the student’s age, income level, demographics and importance of campus housing. The survey found that the majority of students interested in student housing are enrolled in the district and reside in Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood and San Pablo.

Some survey respondents shared their thoughts about the importance of housing.

  • “Being a student with low income is hard, any help/assistance would be helpful.”
  • “The area here is constantly going up in prices.”
  • “No student should be homeless.” 

For many students, college can be a large expense. It is not just tuition that needs to be considered, but living expenses, transportation and basic necessities as well. The plans to incorporate student housing are still up in the air but Montoya describes the project as something “our students deserve,” to alleviate one major cost while attending LMC.

 

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Aliyah Ramirez
Aliyah Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief

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