Housing subsidy for community college students launches in Maryland county

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Dive Brief:

  • Howard County, Maryland, launched a pilot program March 5 that provides apartment rental subsidies of up to $800 per month to low-income community college students.
  • Students who are enrolled for six credits per semester during the fall and spring semesters at Howard Community College, have a household income that is less than 60% of the area’s median income, are in good academic standing and are eligible for student financial aid can qualify for the Student Rental Subsidy Program subsidies. 
  • Many students in the county are working full time and struggling financially, said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “No one should have to choose between buying groceries, pursuing an education and paying the rent,” he said. 

Dive Insight:

The rising cost of housing in many U.S. cities has made it difficult for low-income residents to find affordable apartments. Howard County, outside Baltimore, has seen a sharp increase in rental prices in recent years, leading tenants to advocate for rent stabilization

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2019, 46% of renters in the county were considered rent burdened — defined as paying more than 30% of their household income on rent — and 26% paid more than half their income on housing. “As rents increase, those numbers continue to grow,” said Ball. 

The housing crisis particularly affects students enrolled in community colleges, more than a quarter of whom are parents and 59% of whom receive financial aid, according to think tank New America. Many community college students pay more for housing than for tuition, and those who are housing insecure face higher rates of “anxiety and depression, worse health outcomes, and lower GPAs than their housing secure peers,” a 2022 article from New America states. 

Howard Community College last year identified access to safe and affordable housing as a significant barrier for its students. A report from the college’s Commission on the Future stated that “Access to affordable housing would move HCC toward having a diverse student body and eliminating a major barrier for underrepresented students, first generation students and students from lower-income backgrounds.”

According to Ball, “We know that stable and affordable housing is a significant determinant of academic success and economic mobility, which is why I believe this program is so crucial for our students.”

Howard County is not alone in its pursuit of housing subsidies for students. The city of College Park, in neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, is also exploring a pilot program that would provide $1,500 rental subsidies to students at the University of Maryland, which has its flagship campus in the city. 

Howard County launched the new two-year, $1 million, student subsidy pilot program through its Housing Opportunities Meant for Everyone initiative, Ball said. Through the program, the county will provide as many as 50 students with subsidies of up to $800 per month, ideally reducing their monthly housing cost burden to 35% or less of their income, he said.

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