New law requires CSU to tell students cost of off-campus housing

Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle | Melody Gutierrez

SACRAMENTO — California’s public universities have failed to give students and their families accurate information on the cost of off-campus housing, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill Monday to ensure that the universities post online the true cost of attending a campus.

Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona (Los Angeles County) authored AB990, saying the University of California and California State University systems are using estimates that don’t reflect current market rates, leaving students and families without key information when calculating how much it will cost to attend a university.

AB990 requires each campus in the CSU and requests each campus in the UC to post on their websites the market cost of a one-bedroom apartment near each campus using estimates done on an annual basis. Most campuses already post off-campus costs on their websites, but each calculate it differently, with CSU relying on a survey from 2006 that is adjusted for inflation while UC uses a survey of UC students to estimate housing costs every three years.

The bill Brown signed Monday would require CSU campuses to consult students, local newspapers and online listings advertising vacancies and other sources to determine housing costs. Lawmakers requested the autonomous UC to follow the same policy but cannot specifically direct them to do so.

Supporters of the bill — which include the student associations at UC and CSU — said the current method each university system uses leaves students unprepared for the actual monthly cost of rent. For example, various off-campus housing estimates can be found on UC Berkeley’s website, including one saying students should budget $7,500 to live off-campus, an estimate that is below market rates for renting a shared unit.

A bill analysis said CSU’s estimates online erroneously peg the cost of living in Bakersfield as higher than San Luis Obispo. Rodriguez said part of the reason he wants more uniformity is that when campuses provide off-campus housing estimates, it’s unclear whether they are for a studio, one bedroom or shared housing and how far from campus they are located. Rodriguez’s bill would require the cost of a one-bedroom apartment to be listed for the areas surrounding the campus.

The bill passed the Legislature without a single no vote. CSU campuses must post the new estimates by Feb. 1 of each year. It’s unclear whether UC will comply. UC did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

“This is a common-sense measure to give students and parents accurate information as they weigh their campus options,” Rodriguez said.

Brown signed the bill without comment.

Leave a Reply