• MHCC joins regional higher education leaders and advocates to address student housing insecurity at virtual summit

    GRESHAM, Ore. – Leadership and advocates for student basic needs from Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC), Portland State University (PSU), Portland Community College (PCC) and various regional organizations virtually came together Thursday to address the critical issue of student housing insecurity.

    The Student Housing Insecurity Virtual Summit was organized by representatives from MHCC, PCC, PSU and College Housing Northwest and invited attendees to collaborate on addressing this issue, which presents major barriers to academic success.

    “Studying while housing insecure is no way to learn and students who strive to make it work often can’t due to no fault of their own,” said MHCC President Lisa Skari in opening comments during Thursday’s summit.

    According to the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, one in five Oregon community college students experienced homelessness in the past year. Prior to the pandemic on a national level, 52% of community college students said they experienced housing insecurity and 20% were homeless in the past year. Forty-one percent said they experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days.

    MHCC is a microcosm of the national and statewide status of homelessness among community college students – the Hope Center’s #RealCollege During the Pandemic survey of almost 500 MHCC students last spring found that 35% were housing insecure, 12% were homeless due to the pandemic and 42% said they were food insecure.

    “At MHCC, like many campuses across the region, our students are struggling to meet their basic needs, such as food, shelter, childcare and access to technology,” Skari said. “In keeping with national trends, our most vulnerable students have been disproportionately impacted. The lack of basic needs and available support keeps students from enrolling and persisting in achieving their academic goals.”

    In addition to Skari and various other colleagues in attendance from MHCC, the college was represented at the summit by Student Success Program Co-founder and Coordinator Bhaktirose Dawdy.

    Dawdy co-organized the virtual summit with PCC Director of Links Programs Pam Blumenthal, PSU Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Student Life Mike Walsh alongside College Housing Northwest’s David Garnand and Ryan Sturley.

    As part of the summit, Dawdy, Walsh and PSU HRAC Research Director Greg Townley presented on student housing insecurity in the Portland Metro area.

    “Of community college students nationwide who had jobs pre-pandemic, 70% of them lost hours and 42% lost their jobs and the impact on the BIPOC population has been 16% higher,” Dawdy said. “So for those who utilize work as a way to reach their educational goals with minimal debt, that creates a super challenging environment and cut out access to education for many students.”

    After examining the extent of the housing insecurity crisis among students, participants at the virtual summit had the opportunity to go into break-out sessions to discuss ways to address the issue.

    “I think we can all agree that studying while housing insecure is not a way to learn and students who strive to make it work often can’t - not because they’re not trying hard enough, but maybe because we’re not trying hard enough to find solutions to support them,” Skari said. “It was an honor to join colleagues from around our region to get the full picture of this issue and collaborate on ways we can meet it head-on so all students are able to achieve their educational goals.”