CalMatters Sits Down With HOPE Center Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab

Last month, CalSchoolNews covered a troubling new survey underscoring the severity of housing and food insecurity among community college students in California. It showed that 19% of California’s 2.1 million community college students have experienced homelessness during the past year.

As a follow-up to the report, CalMatters’ Felicia Mello recently conducted an interview with the founding director of the Hope Center, which commissioned the survey. Mello and Sara Goldrick-Rab discussed a variety of education topics, ranging from homelessness and financial aid to what California can learn from other states.

Be sure to read the interview in its entirety here. The following are highlights from the CalMatters Q & A:

• Food and housing insecurity among college students is a statewide problem that transcends ethnic and racial boundaries.

• Homelessness is particularly acute among former foster youth.

• Most of the students experiencing food and housing insecurity work. Their paychecks simply aren’t enough to pay the bills.

• College students could benefit from programs that incentivize landlords who house students.

• Only 22% of eligible students have signed up for Cal Fresh. Goldrick-Rab said this is what surprised her most. Few students are receiving Pell Grants either.

Goldrick-Rab was also asked what three things she would do to improve financial aid in California.

I’d want to make sure students were using every federal dollar available so I could save my state dollars to provide more for living expenses.

I would open up a very serious conversation about, given the situation in the public sector colleges here, whether state financial aid dollars should be going to private institutions. We don’t seem to have the money to do right by the publics.

And I would want to make sure we were working on a state free lunch program for college students. That’s a big one. I think you could strike a deal between agriculture and education where agriculture wins from having some subsidies and the food goes to the community colleges.