SMCCCD moves forward with vision for student housing

SMCCCD works towards a future plan to provide student housing for the three community colleges.


Andrea Sto. Domingo

The district aims to provide student housing within the next five years.

The San Mateo County Community College District is in the process of moving forward with a student housing plan that will take place within the next couple of years.

One of the challenges for adding student housing is the cost of constructing and purchasing facilities. District officials have discussed how several different options have been explored to help fund student housing, but applying for the State budget is what they’re going with.

“With funding included in the State budget for the construction of student housing projects, SMCCCD will apply for a grant from the State which if received, would provide a significant portion of the funding needed to construct student housing facilities,” said Dr. Richard Storti, executive vice chancellor of Administrative Services.

The California Department of Finance released guidance for how districts with “shovel-ready” projects can access the initial round of funding amounting to $500 million. SMCCCD is fastidiously working towards having their final application sent in by the October 31 deadline.

District officials are working on a plan to include housing at all three of the community colleges.

“The first project is anticipated to be located at College of San Mateo because of its central location within the district,” said Storti. “Students attending any of our three colleges will be eligible to stay at student housing located at CSM.”

SMCCCD has its staff ready to help students obtain resources for student housing so that they can keep moving forward with their education.

“Student housing is known to enrich campus life and provide many students with the opportunity to complete their educational goals,” said Storti. “It would also provide many students with an opportunity to complete their educational goals in a shorter period of time.”

Housing at the three community colleges can impact things such as commute time, cost of living and home location for students.

“It would take away that extra commute that can sometimes hinder getting to class on time or at all,” said Jovelyn Marinas, a communication student at Skyline College. “When people don’t have to stress about where they have to move or if they can pay their expensive rent or be in a dangerous situation, they can focus more on their academics instead of those stressors.”
“It’s already well known that housing in the Bay Area is extremely expensive,” Marinas said. “It brings up the conversation of how affordable ‘below-market-rate housing is. Just because it’s ‘below-market-rate doesn’t mean that it’s affordable for college students.”

It’s still unclear if they’re going to use ‘below-market-rate units. If they were to use the units, 2,000 of them would go to the College of San Mateo. The units could be up to 2,551 if the housing would be available at below-market-rate, according to a 2020 survey study by The Scion Group.

Students have expressed their concern as to whether or not it is challenging to obtain a spot for housing.

“What are the criteria?,” said Marinas. “How much of it is (actually) need-based?”
Students’ eligibility for applying to SMCCCD housing is not yet available. State funding is providing housing for full-time students (12 units or more) and ones that are in need financially.

Students such as Marinas believe that part-time students should also be eligible for student housing on the campuses.

“I think they’re really leaving the students out who aren’t able to commit to being a full-time student because of factors like work or having to take care of family members, children,” Marinas said. “I think there are also cases where those who study part-time while working full-time, are those with housing insecurity.”

“District officials are currently exploring options for part-time students,” said Storti.
There are currently discussions being held as to whether international students should also be eligible for the SMCCCD student housing plan.

“International students are still students of Skyline College,” said Marinas. “They can suffer from housing insecurity as well, and I think it can be especially hard for someone to find housing when they’re not familiar with the area. I think this also sends a very negative message that international students are only seen as “temporary”, and therefore, shouldn’t have a chance to claim a spot in housing.”

The deadline for this state application is Oct. 31. Vice-Chancellor Mitch Bailey shared that they may have a proposal by the next meeting on Oct. 27. The final decision on the application will be made between May and July of next year.

“If we are successful in receiving State funding, construction would begin as early as 2023 with occupancy available as early as 2025-2026,” said Storti.

If approved, future SMCCCD students can look forward to eligibility and application resources.