Community colleges traditionally have been commuter campuses. Fewer than one-third of the nation’s two-year schools have on-campus housing.

But on Aug. 12, 258 students at Kansas City Kansas Community College in Wyandotte County will move into a sparkling new residence hall. Named Centennial Hall, the building has been designed to offer students a safe learning environment, privacy and camaraderie.

Residential accommodations are more unusual at two-year schools located in urban areas, like KCKCC. Johnson County Community College has no on-campus housing, and neither do the campuses of the Metropolitan Community College system in Kansas City.

With the opening of Centennial Hall, KCKCC has become part of a movement among community colleges nationwide to help students manage an ongoing affordable housing shortage.

In a 2020 survey by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, based at Temple University in Philadelphia, 52% of community college students who responded said they had difficulty finding housing or keeping up with rent and expenses. That’s higher than the 43% of four-year college students who reported experiencing housing insecurity.

Research has shown that students who are worried about having a safe place to stay in general have lower grade point averages than their peers and higher rates of anxiety and depression.

Community college students, who are more likely than students at four-year schools to come from low-income families and minority communities, cite the inability to pay for basic needs such as food and housing as a leading reason they abandon their pursuit of college credits and workforce credentials.

In response to the alarming enrollment declines — since the pandemic, community colleges around the nation have lost about 800,000 students — and a growing awareness of student needs, more campuses are looking into housing options. These include partnering with nonprofits or lobbying for state funds to build residence halls.

Read the full article about affordable housing options for community college students by Barbara Shelly at The 74.