Campus remains committed to improving student housing availability

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I was both moved and motivated by The Daily Californian’s feature on Hash Khan, a UC Berkeley undergraduate living in a school bus. His compelling story lends strong support to Chancellor Carol Christ’s decision to make the development of new, affordable housing a key priority for the campus. The chancellor has publicly committed to doubling the number of housing units for UC Berkeley students, and we have every intention of making good on that promise.

The confluence of a booming economy, rapidly escalating rents and a shortage of university-provided housing is creating serious problems for students and threatening their ability to meet the most basic of needs and make the most of their time at UC Berkeley. In my capacity as interim vice chancellor of student affairs, I want to assure our community that we are working on a number of fronts to confront this challenge. Our short-term and long-term initiatives will continue to support students who are struggling to make ends meet. What follows is a brief summary of efforts underway and the services we offer.

First, the campus is working to expand university housing with projects such as 2400 Bancroft Way (known as Bancroft Hall), which will bring 770 new beds when it opens in fall 2018. We are also pursuing hundreds of new units through new master leases of privately owned buildings in Berkeley. In addition, the other members of the Chancellor’s Housing Master Plan Advisory Group and I are taking steps that will ultimately lead to the construction of new residential units on university-owned property.

We understand, however, that there are immediate needs. In the interim, we will expand our efforts to secure new leases for multi-unit buildings, and we expect to reach agreements with nearby colleges and universities that have excess housing capacity. Additionally, the campus offers programs to help students find off-campus housing, specifically Cal Rentals, which helps connect students with private landlords.

To help address the high cost of living in the Bay Area, we offer support to students struggling to find the financial means to secure housing. We have many financial aid options available to help students meet the full cost of attendance, which includes tuition and fees, books, housing, personal expenses, food and transportation. If you, as a student, are having trouble meeting expenses, we urge you to make an appointment with an expert at the Financial Aid and Scholarships office. Students can also receive help to develop a spending plan so they can effectively manage their finances.

Students interested in learning more about spending plans should request an advising appointment with one of our Bears for Financial Success peer mentors. Students with expenses exceeding the standard cost of attendance may also contact Cal Student Central to discuss additional funding options. We have the ability to provide emergency loans and/or temporary financial assistance in two to three business days to students in need due to unanticipated expenses or difficulties.

While I was pleased to read that Hash Khan appreciates all that we are doing to confront these challenges, I was concerned by how long he had to wait for his financial aid to arrive. Students typically receive their aid within the first two weeks of classes, if all requirements for eligibility are satisfied. We are continually improving our processes and procedures to ensure students have access to the aid they need as quickly as possible. My entire team and I are committed to constant improvement, responsiveness and compassion. We want to hear from you; it is the single best way to ensure that our programs are helping those they are designed to serve.

Stephen C. Sutton, Ed.D is the interim vice chancellor of student affairs.