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Characteristics and experiences of housing-insecure community college students in the College Housing Assistance Program in Washington


Description: Across the nation, many community college students experience housing insecurity. A survey of more than 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states found that approximately 50 percent were housing insecure and 14 percent had experienced homelessness (Goldrick-Rab, Richardson, & Hernandez, 2017). When housing assistance programs are available, students in need may find them difficult to navigate.

The College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) in Tacoma, Washington, is an innovative collaboration working to address this issue. Through CHAP, Tacoma Community College has partnered with the Tacoma Housing Authority to provide students who are homeless or near homeless with housing assistance for up to three years. Temple University is conducting a study of the effectiveness of CHAP on the educational and health outcomes of near-homeless students using a randomized controlled trial. Complementing this impact study, REL Northwest—in collaboration with Temple University—will study the characteristics of Tacoma Community College students who are able to successfully navigate CHAP's housing voucher process, as well as those who face barriers.

The primary purpose of this study is to help CHAP partners make improvements by examining the factors that impact the ability of homeless and near-homeless students to complete the Tacoma Housing Authority housing voucher application and obtain housing and to offer perspectives about program implementation. The study will explore the potential challenges and opportunities associated with implementing a cross-sector collaboration focused on using housing dollars to improve educational outcomes for community college students. Thus, the study findings may be particularly useful for similar higher education and housing authority collaborations—both in the Northwest and across the nation—by providing insight into the unique challenges housing-insecure students face and how they experience support programs.

Research Questions:

  1. What are the characteristics and academic outcomes of homeless and housing-insecure students at Tacoma Community College who have applied for a housing voucher in CHAP?
    1. Are there differences between participants who successfully complete the housing voucher application and those who do not?
    2. Among successful housing voucher applicants, are there differences between participants who were and were not able to use their voucher to obtain housing?
    3. What are significant predictors of obtaining housing among CHAP participants?
  2. What are the experiences of homeless and housing-insecure students at Tacoma Community College with the CHAP housing eligibility application, Tacoma Housing Authority voucher application, housing search process, and CHAP support services?
  3. How do CHAP, Tacoma Housing Authority, and rental market stakeholders perceive the housing assistance program's delivery of services?

Study Design: REL Northwest will conduct a retrospective descriptive analysis of the characteristics of Tacoma Community College students who applied for housing assistance in 2017–2019, as well as their use of and perspectives on CHAP. This study will explore predictors of successfully applying for, receiving, and using the housing voucher; experiences of housing-insecure students; and perspectives on CHAP implementation.

Projected Release Date: Summer 2021

Partnership or Research Alliance: This study is a not affiliated with a partnership or research alliance.

Related Products: What's Happening? report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Kathryn Torres, REL Northwest at Education Northwest