Senate holds survey to learn about housing

Sara Adams, Contributor

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Madison College’s Student Senate is conducting a survey to find out how many Madison College students are impacted by housing issues including safety, affordability and accessibility. The Student Senate Affordable Housing Initiative Survey is led by student senator Catherine Larson.

Student Senate Affordable Housing Initiative Survey has been sent out through student email on April 29 and will run till May 7 at 11:45 p.m. The importance of the survey is to see how housing impacts students, both personally and academically.

While there are no recent studies of Madison College’s students’ access to housing, finding affordable housing in Madison is challenging. Additionally, housing insecurity and homelessness affect many college students, especially students at community colleges.

“What we do know is that student housing accessibility is directly correlated with student success and academic performance,” Larsen said.

A variety of factors, including low vacancy rates and high housing costs, make finding affordable housing difficult for Madison residents.

According to 2013-2017 census data, Madison’s vacancy rate is 4.31 percent. A healthy vacancy rate is normally estimated to be around 7 or 8 percent. Low vacancy rates make it harder for renters to find housing, and lead to rent increases. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2018 report finds the Madison Metro area is the most expensive housing market in the state.

A 2015 report by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found nearly 50 percent of community college students struggle with food and housing insecurity. The report also found most students who leave college without graduating do so because of financial factors.

However, because Madison College is a commuter school, students residing outside of Dane County may deal with different housing problems than those who live nearby.  

Larsen says the survey will allow Student Senate and Madison College administration to get a better sense of the housing issues students struggle with. Once they know more about how many students struggle with housing, they will be better equipped to consider how the college can help.

If the college can help students meet basic needs like housing, then they will be able to turn their attention fully to their studies.

“Any student in a financial crisis, they’re going to have to take care of that first before they take care of school. They need to make sure that they themselves, their family, their children, their partner, have food on the table, a house, reliable transportation,” said Larson.