Student housing plans for 2023 up in the air

Student housing plans are being debated among El Camino College administration officials as the deadline for Assembly Bill 190, a grant program allowing the approval and construction of housing on campus approaches.

Assembly Bill 190 is a Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program that provides the campus with a one-time grant to construct low-cost housing options for students, according to the Open States website.

By Jan. 25, 2023, college officials must submit an application to be eligible for Assembly Bill 190.

Employees from the Volz Company, a real estate and program management firm, are currently evaluating the feasibility of constructing housing at several locations near campus. These locations include the northern gym, Lots K, J and Lot L.

During the Nov. 21 Board of Trustees meeting, Ann Volz, president and founder of the Volz Company said that the grant program is only applicable to full-time students.

“The grant requires students to take at least 12 units to be eligible,” Volz said during The Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 21.

According to a survey conducted by the Volz Company, 59% of part-time students would consider becoming full-time if El Camino College offered on-campus housing.

The same survey also recorded data showcasing that the most popular housing for single students renting off campus is a one-bedroom apartment, which costs a median rate of $1,652 a month.

“The most important thing for students is affordability,” Volz said.

Vice President of the Board of Trustees Kenneth Brown said that El Camino College officials have “tried” student housing before in 2014. El Camino previously housed international students to be able to attend college.

In response to Trustee Brown, El Camino President Brenda Thames said the current purpose of student housing is different from 2014 because international student housing was intended for “revenue generation,” which is a business process meant to generate income for El Camino College.

According to Thames, the current plans for student housing are more focused on growing student participation on campus than it is on generating wealth.

“We are not trying to make money from students,” Thames said. “We are trying to increase student engagement.”

In agreement with Thames’ statement, Volz said another factor that needs to be considered is the interaction students may have with the broader community and the proximity of housing locations near campus.

“I think the most convenient location to have the housing is option 3, in Lot L,” Volz said. “We have considered the walking distance of the campus and it allows the students to be right in the middle.”

Psychology major Stephany Medina said that student housing is a great idea because it would eliminate the need for students to drive to college.

“I wouldn’t even need to commute to campus anymore,” Medina said.

Medina lives near Harbor City and said she commutes to El Camino College because she did not want to switch community colleges when she moved a year ago.

“It’s a good school,” Media said. “I couldn’t just leave, I’m almost done.”

Medina said that one of her biggest concerns with commuting is the current state of the national economy due to inflation.

Gas prices have experienced record-high costs throughout the year, only just recently decreasing to an average of $5 per gallon in California as of Dec. 1

“One of the things that happened after COVID was the prices of everything has gone up drastically,” Medina said. “I can barely survive on my own.”