Monday, February 6, 2023

UPDATE: Most Cal Poly Humboldt On-Campus Housing to Go Freshmen-Only, Protest Planned

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2023 at 5:04 PM

click to enlarge The re-branding of Humboldt State University to Cal Poly Humboldt began on campus signage in Arcata. - PHOTO BY MARK A. LARSON
  • Photo by Mark A. Larson
  • The re-branding of Humboldt State University to Cal Poly Humboldt began on campus signage in Arcata.
Citing anticipated “unprecedented growth” due to its recent Cal Poly Humboldt status, the university is limiting the vast majority of on-campus housing to freshmen starting next year, which could leave an unknown number of students without a university-managed option amid an already impacted rental market.

The decision could displace as many as 1,000 students currently living on campus.

A message to continuing students on the Cal Poly Humboldt Housing and Residential Life page states the university is committed to “offering housing for all first-year students and accommodating as many transfer and returning students” as possible by continuing and increasing “bridge housing options” in the 2023-2024 school year, which are rooms at Valley West area motels.

The current plan, the message states, is for freshmen to be housed on campus, for transfer students to have the option of the College Creek Apartments, Super 8, Motel 6 or Comfort Inn and for continuing students to stay at the Comfort Inn, Super 8 or Motel 6, with “additional options pending.”

“We are also committed to these bridge housing options having extra amenities to enhance the experience for students, as we realize living on campus may have been the preferred option,” the message states.

The posting goes on to state that more information on additional options will be made available soon and asks for students’ “patience as we finalize contractual agreements for additional spaces and services.”

According to CPH spokesperson Grant Scott-Goforth, the university "expects to have about 1,000 returners needing housing next year — that is those currently living on campus that may return and request on campus housing, based on historical data and demand."

A petition started by an individual who describes themselves as the parent of a CHP student states the university needs to “consider a more fair approach” to the housing situation and had nearly 1,600 signatures just before noon on Tuesday.

“If Cal Poly Humboldt does not have the facilities to properly house their student body, they should not increase enrollment and should work with the CSU to address this crisis properly,” the petition states. “We demand that further actions be taken to make the access to student housing fair for all students, and that parents be included in problem solving options so that our students are not left struggling when they should be studying. “

A protest is also planned Wednesday on the campus quad starting at 11 a.m., according to social media posts.

Combined, the three hotels offer around 350 beds, according housing information on the CPH website, while the dorm options being offered to freshmen and transfer students in on-campus housing at College Creek Apartments has a total  of just more than 2,000 beds.

“At this point, we are planning to add approximately 1,000 beds to ensure current students have safe and affordable housing options managed by the university,” the statement reads.

The lack of housing options for Cal Poly Humboldt students has long been a concern — one that President Tom Jackson also noted in January of 2022 amid the fanfare of the campus officially becoming a Cal Poly, saying “our biggest challenge still remains housing — student housing and community housing."

The housing crisis came into greater focus in the 2015-2016 school year, when enrollment numbers peaked at about 8,500 students. Around the same time, HSU hired Brailsford & Dunlavey, Inc. to conduct a student housing demand analysis, which found the university's "housing portfolio" was undersized and aged, and that the surrounding Arcata housing market was so constrained it left some students unable to find housing and sleeping in their cars or camping in the woods.

As part of a 2021 self-study conducted before Humboldt State University became the state’s third polytechnic university — and the only one in the northern reaches of the state — the campus predicted the designation would come with a rapid increase in enrollment in the space of a few years — growing to nearly 11,000 students by 2028.

Early indications are that prediction is on course.

After gaining the Cal Poly title, early numbers showed first-time undergraduate applications for the 2023-2024 school year increased by 86 percent while other categories, such as transfers or graduate students, grew by 75 percent, according to a November press release.

In his comments last year, Jackson said he expected "even a little growth" in off-campus housing development, coupled with on-campus housing projects, will be enough to meet demand.

He also noted that some of that $433 million in one-time state funds the university received for the polytechnic transition would go toward housing. Cal Poly Humboldt currently has five plans for student housing, including the construction of two brand new housing complexes (one off Sunset Court across the street from the current student health center and another off Laurel Drive), as well as the addition of two multi-story parking garages.

The university is also set to break ground this month on an off-campus housing project at the former Craftsman Mall site located about a mile off campus, which is slated to accommodate 964 students, according to CPH, with an estimated move-in date of fall of 2025.

Meanwhile, continuing students’ options for university-managed housing will  mainly be limited to the Valley West motels, which started in this fall with the Comfort Inn option and has now grown to include the Super 8 and Motel 6 sites.

"Housing has long been a challenge in this area, for students and community members," Scott-Goforth said. "The off-campus residences being offered this next year are more than the university has ever offered, even when it was at its all-time enrollment high in 2016. So the University is working hard to try and expand housing. The hotel property leases are a temporary solution while new campus housing is built."

In an announcement sent out to students today, CPH states that surveys and conversations with current residents at Comfort Inn “have revealed their satisfaction with this option.”

The "bridge housing" will be offered for $6,624 for two semesters, compared to the on-campus rate that ranges from around $7,088 to $14,500, depending on whether it's a double or single room and meal plans options.

“Our term for these temporary beds is ‘bridge housing,’ housing that is temporarily controlled by the university to bridge demand until our new housing facilities come online in the Fall 2025 semester,” it states. “We continue to explore other options beyond these motel partnerships and look forward to sharing those as they are finalized.”

The campus also sent out a news release late his afternoon.  Find it below.

Cal Poly Humboldt is experiencing unprecedented growth due to our strong academic programs as well as our polytechnic designation. We know that students and their families have concerns about the availability of quality, affordable housing during this time of growth.

To help meet their needs, the University is providing other temporary housing options. We are committed to offering priority housing at on-campus residence halls for all first-year students and accommodating as many transfer and returning students as we can in the next academic year.

We know that while all students benefit from the opportunity to live on campus, it is of the utmost importance to those students newest to our campus to support their full transition to Cal Poly Humboldt. To balance these needs and support our returning and transfer students, Cal Poly Humboldt is increasing our bridge housing options for Fall 2023 by adding approximately 1,000 beds. Our goal is to provide as many students as possible a safe and affordable housing option managed by the University.

At this time, we have arranged options that include the Comfort Inn, Motel 6, and Super 8 hotels near campus in Arcata. We are also working on additional options.

Cal Poly Humboldt is committed to sustaining a quality student experience throughout this time of growth and transition. One example of bridge housing is from this past Fall 2022, when upperclassmen had the opportunity to live at the Comfort Inn in Arcata.

Surveys and conversation with current residents in our campus-managed off-site housing have shown their satisfaction with this option. Students have shared their appreciation of the convenience of the location, its strong connection with the community and local businesses, and the extra amenities, such as breakfast, cleaning service, and a grocery store within walking distance. Students enjoy these amenities as well as a reduced cost of housing (which will be $3,312 per semester for Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 semesters respectively).

All continuing students received a message today from Housing & Residence Life explaining their options and the housing application process and timeline. This web page was recently updated to help our students and their families better understand our process. More information will be shared regarding options and the included amenities in more detail. We will continue to update you as we finalize contractual agreements for additional spaces and services. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the lower range on on campus housing rates.
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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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