Housing program will help Columbus State students pay rent, earn degrees
Campus News | Thursday, June 25, 2020
Leaders in higher education and housing will launch an initiative this fall to provide short-term rental assistance to help low-income students at Columbus State Community College stay enrolled and complete their degrees.
The initiative, called Success Bridge, is a collaboration among Columbus State, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, Community Shelter Board, and the Homeless Families Foundation. They designed the program to help low-income students whose struggle to pay rent and utilities increases their risk of dropping out of college.
The three-year program, which will be piloted in the 2020-2021 academic year, has two components. Both are targeted to students who have completed 24 credits hours or more and are in good academic standing, and include housing assistance and academic counseling.
The short-term assistance component is intended to get students through an immediate housing crisis that could derail their college plans. These students will receive assistance with rent and utilities for up to four months. Although the amount of assistance will vary based on a student’s needs, Success Bridge planners estimate an average assistance of up to $1,800 per student. Approximately 48 students will be provided with short-term assistance in the first year of the initiative.
The “medium-term” component of Success Bridge will enable approximately 24 student households to have stable housing in apartments secured through a partnership with Capital University and will receive rental subsidies from CMHA.
In addition, all Columbus State students will have access to housing counseling, linkages to community resources, and connections to career development and employment counseling at Columbus State’s new Advocacy and Resource Center.
David Harrison, Columbus State president, noted that many students are working heads of households and face non-academic challenges to success. “Columbus State is pleased to see the level of community interest in this initiative to help our students outside the classroom,” he said. “Among the array of service needs of our students, housing instability may be the most critical and the toughest to address. Without wrap-around support for areas of non-academic need, our students face the risk of having to leave school with no degree and poor job prospects.”
First-year funding of $763,450 has been secured with $375,000 from CMHA matched with a $375,000 grant to the Columbus State Foundation from the Beatrice I. and Alan R. Weiler Fund of the Columbus Foundation, as well as in-kind dollars.
“The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is excited to work with our partners to help hard-working students earn a degree and support their families,” said Charles D. Hillman, CMHA president and CEO. “Education is the ladder to employment and life-long opportunities, and our organizations have come together to ensure that lack of stable, affordable housing is not an obstacle to degree completion and gainful employment.”
The Homeless Families Foundation will screen Success Bridge applicants, provide housing stability and counseling services, and make service referrals. Community Shelter Board will provide a linkage to the program from the homeless prevention system.
An impetus for this initiative is the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio’s plan to close the 54,000-household affordable housing gap in Franklin County. Rent assistance linked with services is one of the three strategies in the plan and the one that most directly benefits extremely low-income households.
“A smart affordable housing strategy doesn’t just mean building more homes,” said Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance. “It also means providing stable housing for persons in poverty while they work to complete education and training, which provides a path to higher-income jobs. We’re honored to collaborate with these partners as they break new ground in both the housing and education fields. It’s an approach that will pay off for our entire region.”
A Wisconsin Hope Center survey completed by 1,204 Columbus State students in 2018 found that 60 percent of respondents reported being housing insecure and 14 percent reported being homeless in the previous year.
Success Bridge builds on the collaboration the housing authority and Columbus State established with Scholar House, an innovative program that combines affordable housing with childcare and other services to support low-income students throughout their college career. The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities last year cited CMHA as a “pioneering” public housing authority working alongside postsecondary education partners, including Columbus State, to increase college graduation rates among residents and reduce generational legacies of poverty.