New HUD Guidebook for Higher Ed Institutions Targets Costs of Living

By Lauren Walizer

A new guidebook from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab provides college employees, as well as poverty advocates, strategies to address student housing insecurity and costs of living in higher education. Specifically, it suggests action steps to address high rates of unmet need, a critical barrier to completion for the lowest-income students, including working adults and other nontraditional students.

Emphasizing the importance of effective outreach, HUD offers recommendations for identifying and reaching low-income students who need assistance, connecting them with public benefits or emergency aid, and improving institutional policies.  

The guidebook elaborates on these recommendations with specific examples.  For instance, schools could support student parents by helping them access public benefits, such as child care assistance; providing mentoring and academic supports; assisting them with finding affordable housing; and developing a two-generation program by partnering with local K-12 schools. HUD points to successful programs for student parents at Montgomery County Community College (PA) and Endicott College (MA) and provides numerous other resources on supporting student parents as well as potential sources of federal funding.

The issues discussed in the guidebook go beyond student housing needs. However, HUD’s perspective is valuable because many of today’s students live off-campus and must compete with non-students for the same increasingly unaffordable housing options. It’s time to put student housing insecurity higher on the agenda  as we discuss increasing college completion by addressing the costs of college.

CLASP urges institutions to begin implementing—or continue to build on—the strategies outlined in HUD’s guidebook. For more information, colleges may also review the results of our Benefits Access for College Completion project, in which colleges from six states designed systems to connect low-income students to public benefits.