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Housing Crisis At Cal Poly Humboldt

*Photo: Oden Taylor, CalMatters


As Cal Poly Humboldt expects a massive influx in enrollments, protests have sparked surrounding the campus’ worsening housing crisis.

This year saw a record number of fall freshman applicants, the university later announcing that all first year students would receive priority consideration for on campus housing, incensing returning students who would be forced to find new housing. The population influx is likely due to the university’s new status as Northern California’s only polytechnic school, a decision intended to boost enrollment numbers. With the new focus on first years, returning students

would be expected to move into limited off campus motel rooms. If they don’t secure a coveted housing slot, students might face losing housing entirely, being forced to rent outside properties or become homeless.

This crisis is not entirely new. Before Humboldt became a polytechnic school it had a reputation for student housing issues- an estimated 1 in 5 students were already homeless- a margin far greater than any other California school. The new housing decisions have only exacerbated a long standing problem. Worse, the decision to place emphasis on first year students was announced just a few days after the transfer window had closed, leaving many students trapped without the expectation of being housed.

Angered students have already taken to protesting the change, demanding an enrollment cap as well as more and better quality housing. This February hundreds of students gathered on the campus’ quad with signs decrying the university’s carelessness towards its students. Those who were already forced to live in motel rooms rebuffed the idea that they would be barred from on campus housing- the motels are significantly far from campus and according to some of a much lower quality; many have reported mold problems in their dorms. Moreover, the off campus housing doesn’t guarantee safety for students expected to commute to school. The population of Humboldt is markedly more diverse than the surrounding city of Arcata. Black students have reported experiencing bigotry off campus and thus outside housing would only worsen the issue. A new housing complex is currently being built to accommodate the population increase, but it isn’t expected to open until 2025. As of now, the university has discussed possibly housing students on ‘floating apartments’, essentially a massive barge which could hold up to 650 students. This idea has garnered disapproval from students already displeased with the low quality of off campus housing.

Humboldt has little incentive to acquiesce to student demands, however. In fact, increased enrollment has been the campus’ goal for a while. Humbdolt’s appeal has always been its smaller campus and lower resident count, but in order to receive more state funding the school must up its enrollment numbers by a remarkable percentage.

As it stands, the housing crisis at Cal Poly Humboldt could mean the loss of returning students once the transfer window reopens. Whether or not this exodus will affect the university’s decision to focus on enrollments is unclear, but its reputation has undoubtedly been soured. The school promised to applying freshmen might be entirely different from the one they end up experiencing.

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