August 30, 2021
On August 26, 2021, the US. Supreme Court overturned an eviction moratorium designed to protect families in counties with rising COVID-19 caseloads. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, millions of Americans are now at risk of eviction and homelessness. The risk to #RealCollege students and their families is especially severe.
A 2020 Hope Center survey of nearly 200,000 students found that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated already widespread housing insecurity among students in higher education. Almost half of all students surveyed experienced some form of housing insecurity in the past year, and one in seven reported experiencing homelessness. In addition, nearly one in five students at two-year colleges reported having a rent or mortgage increase that made it difficult to pay. And given that students were surveyed while the CDC’s eviction moratorium was in place, the end of this crucial protection could make these figures far worse.
Students cannot learn if they are worried about where they will live, study, and sleep. In addition, the challenge of paying rent in an economic downturn may hit students harder because the jobs they hold while in school often do not pay well. As with many other aspects of the pandemic, the burden of housing and basic needs insecurity overwhelmingly harms Black and Latino students, women, and parenting students.
States and localities should use every tool at their disposal to protect communities from an impending wave of evictions and homelessness. One especially promising model is the Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program, a city program that partners with nonprofit organizations to offer housing counseling and mediation to tenants and landlords to avoid eviction. Notably, the mediation service is mandatory: landlords must agree to tenant mediation before pursuing formal eviction proceedings. Prevention and diversion programs keep evictions from reaching formal legal proceedings in housing courts by using a combination of interventions including rental assistance, legal assistance, mediation, and tenant outreach. A recent study by researchers at the Urban Institute found 47 eviction programs, including statewide programs in Michigan, Colorado, and Texas, and municipal programs in Richmond, Virginia, and Pinellas County, Florida.
Higher education institutions should work with their communities to advocate for interventions that leverage federal and state relief dollars to help students afford housing. This includes ensuring emergency aid and institutional relief dollars through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund explicitly address students’ housing needs and ensure students enroll in public benefit programs. The rapid disbursement of HEERF emergency aid funds, combined with federal and state rental relief funds, are essential to averting student homelessness.
Considering the court’s ruling, Congress should act to protect families, renters, and students from experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. Further efforts should include permanently expanding emergency aid and dismantling restrictions in public assistance programs that prevent #RealCollege students from accessing support. We encourage the U.S. Department of Education and Congress to continue to work together on proven strategies to support #RealCollege students. Federal, state, and local support that ensures #RealCollege students can afford their basic needs will improve college attainment by keeping students in their homes and in the classroom.