By David M. Greenwald
We got a reprieve of sorts from the housing and vacancy crisis this year. If anything, the shoe was on the other foot—vacancy rates were not too low. But that is temporary. At some point the pandemic will end—perhaps by the fall when vaccines are available to most students and faculty.
If you listened to our webinar on Friday—catch it here—one thing that students like ASUCD President Kyle Krueger and Vanguard at UC Davis Editor Julietta Bisharyan agree on, along with Co-Chair of the Faculty Association Jesse Drew, distance learning was forced on everyone, the students want to get back to campus, the faculty do not like it, and everyone is hoping for a return.
Are there aspects of distance learning that they may want to push forward? Yes. But overall, it is not the model that they see of the future. Especially the huge number of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)—they want to get back to their labs in person.
In the meantime, UC Davis reported late last week that they have attracted “a record 105,850 applicants seeking to enter as freshman and transfer students in fall 2021 when the campus plans to resume mostly in-person instruction.”
You can focus on the first part of that sentence—record applicants. They cite a figure that is 11.7 percent higher than the previous record—last year’s 94,763.
Or you can as I do, focus on the second part—”resume mostly in-person instruction.”
UC Davis and Healthy Davis Together deserve praise here. There was not a huge outbreak of COVID. Students were mostly responsible. You did not see the horror stories from Notre Dame or perhaps North Carolina with large student gatherings and super-spreader events. In fact, community spread was lower on campus than in the communityùand the community of Davis has done very well.
Back on December 18, the campus announced “it was planning to return to in-person instruction for fall with decision-making based on then-current public health guidance.”
On January 11, “the University of California announced that it is planning for in-person instruction across all of its 10 campuses.”
All signs, therefore, point to the fact that we are headed back to where we were in 2019-20. Yes, we have seen Sterling Apartments open and Lincoln40 may open by the fall, but Nishi won’t come online for awhile. The university will have additional housing coming online as well. That should help to alleviate some of the worst shortages of housing.
But the end of the housing crunch figures to be a momentary blip, probably even shorter than it was during the Great Recession—which slowed housing pressures for several years.
While telecommuting is changing the workplace and commutes—probably for the better—and might help to alleviate traffic congestion and possibly even some GHG emissions, education for the most part found itself constrained rather than empowered by the move.
The college experience is more than simply learning some facts. That goes doubly at a university which excels in the STEM area and hands-on learning in labs. But a huge part of the college experience is getting out of one’s home, out of one’s community, networking and the total experience.
College has worked better on computer than K-12 for sure, but most college students are itching to get back onto campus. Yes, there are cost factors, but it’s an investment and, as we noted in previous columns, college education greatly increases one’s earning potential—even with the short term costs and the longer term debt of student loans.
UC Davis in their release drilled down into the applicants. California residents accounted for about 70 percent of all freshman applicants.
And the pool is increasingly diverse, as “36.7 percent are from historically underrepresented groups (African American, American Indian, Chicano/Latino and Pacific Islander).”
The data show increases of
- 20.6 percent among African American applicants
- 11.8 percent among Chicano/Latino applicants
- 22 percent among Pacific Islanders
- 7.9 percent among American Indians
Furthermore, among the transfer students from California community colleges, “34.5 percent are from historically underrepresented groups.”
According to the release: “There were gains of 5 percent among African American applicants and 5.2 percent among Chicano/Latino applicants. Applicants [increased] by 22.1 percent among American Indians and 13.6 percent among Pacific Islanders.
“Among California freshman and California Community College transfer applicants, 41 percent are from low-income families, and 42 percent would be in the first generation of their family to graduate from a four-year college.”
This jibes with the report that we discussed last week—the University of California is a driver of opportunity for historically disadvantaged and underrepresented populations.
Locally, all of this means a return, however, to housing issues on the forefront of local discussion. This past year, with students staying away, concerns were about too much rather than too little vacancy. People kept wondering if this would mark a permanent shift.
Perhaps too soon to tell on that, but the early answer appears to be no.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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