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College Student Housing Crisis: One Student's Struggle

Editor's Note: This is part one of a three part special report. Make sure to check out part two and part three.

SAN DIEGO (KOGO) - For a lot of California Community College students, keeping a roof over their heads is a challenge.

Alex Montes is a student at San Diego Mesa College studying engineering. He's originally from Brazil, and first tried to study in South Carolina. He lived in the state for about four years and says he didn't feel welcome, adding that college counselors really didn't give him the guidance or attention he needed to succeed.

"I always felt like they were rushed to get me off the phone, or get me out of the place," Montes said.

That lack of attention could have been because Alex, who is not only an immigrant, identifies as a part of the LGBTQ community.

San Diego Mesa College

Photo: Eddie McCoven

Montes came to San Diego after his now former partner, who’s in the Navy, was transferred to San Diego. But Montes, like a number of college students, is struggling with finances. He found himself homeless and says that makes it tough to find a place to study. One of the problems he's faced includes parking tickets. Another is finding free WiFi.

"So I usually just come here [to the college] almost every day to sit down and do homework because I can just park here," Montes said. "But last semester where everything was closed except for very few classes, it was very, very difficult."

Mesa College still had most classes and student services online in the Fall 2021 semester and Intersession 2022 because of the continued risk and high transmission rates of COVID-19.

Though his circumstances are challenging, Montes says he’s been able to take advantage of resources on campus which include free food and basic necessities. He is also thankful for the faculty and staff who have encouraged him and helped him get into a temporary shelter. But campus housing would make things a lot easier.

"That would change my life, to be honest," Montes said.

Just 11 of the state's community colleges offer student housing, including Sierra College near Sacramento. To address the college student housing crisis, the state’s Department of Finance has recommended tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to create affordable housing for students at Fresno City College and Ventura College, to name a few.

Most of those projects are expected to be completed or at least in the works within the next two years. This means future students may not have as much of a difficult time keeping a roof over their heads, but in the meantime, students like Montes will continue to take it day by day until their circumstances change.

Editor's Note: This is part one of a three part special report. Make sure to check out part two and part three.

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