Cal State University system flunks math on state aid for student housing

Error could cost 2,700 dorm beds amid tight market for affordable housing around campuses

Los Angeles /
Nov.November 30, 2021 09:21 AM
California State University changellor Dr. Joseph Castro and student housing construction (CSU)
California State University changellor Dr. Joseph Castro and student housing construction (CSU)

A small error may have cost the California State University a chunk of funding big enough to add 2,700 student-dorm beds amid a tight market for affordable housing.

Officials of the 23-campus public university system acknowledged they made an error while filling out paperwork for a share of $2 billion the state legislature set aside in its 3-year Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, according to Cal Matters.

Cal State has seven campuses in SoCal, with five in Los Angeles County, one in San Bernardino County and another Orange County.

The mistake in the application for state funds came on an assumption that the money could only be used as a sole source of funding housing projects. The program, however, allows recipients to combine money from the program with other funding sources, such as bonds.

Combining those funds could have allowed for larger projects with more beds.

Cal State trustee Jack McGrory said a correct understanding of the program would have allowed the system to apply for funding for up to 6,000 beds rather than the 3,300 or so it proposed in its application.

Cal State is slated to receive around $600 million from the program to build affordable housing for students, including $150 million from this year’s state budget.

Cal State officials said they “misinterpreted” guidance from the Department of Finance on the program. The Department of Finance said in guidance dated October 7 that “proposals that include funding contributions from other sources will be considered” for funding.

The university had until October 31 to submit its applications for the funding.

State officials could allow Cal State to re-do their application to account for other potential sources of funding. State Assembly Member Phil Ting said the state should do so.

“If CSU erroneously submitted their application based on a bureaucratic misunderstanding, we should give them every opportunity to correct it,” Ting said. “Student housing is too important an issue to let bureaucracy stand in the way.”

Department of Finance Project Manager Rebecca Kirk, who is managing the program, said that Cal State could rework the housing proposals for the 2022 and 2023 funding rounds.

Kirk said fixing Cal State’ error would be “a pretty significant change” to its proposals.

[CalMatters] — Dennis Lynch 





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