Can You Stay in a Dorm at a Community College?

Community colleges across the country are taking different approaches to offering housing options and assistance to their students.
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Bennett Leckrone is a news writer for BestColleges. Before joining BestColleges, Leckrone reported on state politics with the nonprofit news outlet Maryland Matters as a Report for America fellow. He previously interned for The Chronicle of Higher Ed...
Published on August 22, 2023
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  • While most community colleges don't offer on-campus housing, some schools across the country have a varied approach to offering residential options for students.
  • Some community colleges feature traditional residence halls, while others offer apartment-style dorms or other on-campus living facilities.
  • Many schools that don't have on-campus housing still have programs to help students struggling with housing instability.

Mikaela Ackerman, a single mom and assistant manager at a gas station in the Jackson, Michigan, area, needed a place to stay when she decided to pursue an associate degree at a local community college.

Luckily for Ackerman, the local two-year Jackson College was uniquely equipped to help her find housing. The school's Jets Village, a collection of tiny homes on the school's campus, was built in 2021 to help students with dependent children and families.

"It's been amazing because I haven't had to worry about other things that people who are going to school full time and working full time living out by themselves have to worry about the added stress," Ackerman said in a press release earlier this year. "I've been able to get focused on my studies and get creative to make sure I can get done on time."

Community college students often don't fit the mold of traditional college students. Many are from historically underrepresented groups in higher education, have dependent children and families, or are working full time to support their education.

Community college students also often struggle with housing and food insecurity.

A report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement found that 10% of students said they needed help with housing, but few received it from their community college. Just 21% of students who said they needed housing help received assistance from their school.

Community colleges serve as anchor institutions in their communities and critical lifelines of access to higher education. But they operate "with substantially fewer resources for core academic and student support functions than public four-year institutions," according to Columbia University.

However, despite being under-resourced, community colleges across the country offer a variety of housing options to their students.

Community Colleges With Dorms

Jackson College isn't alone in offering housing options for students. Although community colleges typically don't offer on-campus housing, some schools have residence halls and other residential options for students pursuing degrees or credentials.

Long Beach City College, Compton College, and Los Angeles Community College in California all recently boosted their student housing efforts, Fox 11 reported in June. Cerritos College in California also hopes to offer housing for students at an affordable rate, but a lack of state funding has left that project in jeopardy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some community colleges in more rural parts of the country also offer housing to students.

Hocking College in rural Appalachian Ohio, for example, is one of the only two-year schools in the state to offer residence halls. That includes a "residential village" with rooms that cost students less than $3,000 a semester and include amenities like community kitchens and private bathrooms depending on the residence hall, according to the school's website.

Community college housing varies by institution. Some community colleges, like North Central Texas College, feature traditional residence hall options for students, while others have apartment-style housing or other options. At SUNY Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York, students have access to apartment-style housing options with four bedrooms, a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room.

Ultimately, the residence options offered by a community college are dependent on the individual school and its resources. Students can inquire about available housing options when applying. Or they can contact a school's student services department to learn more about what options a community college offers in terms of housing.

Dorm Alternatives

Just because a community college doesn't have an on-campus dorm doesn't mean the school doesn't offer some form of assistance for students who need help with housing. Many schools also feature grants and assistance programs to help students find sustainable housing during their education.

The U.S. Department of Education announced $950,000 to help support basic student needs — including housing — at Northwest-Shoals Community College in Alabama earlier this year. That grant will go toward funding an Advocacy and Resource Center at the school that will help students with basic needs like housing, transportation, childcare, and professional development.

"The importance of this Basic Needs Grant awarded to Northwest-Shoals Community College … for the individuals that it will serve cannot be overstated," Northwest-Shoals President Jeff Goodwin said in a release at the time. "It will not only impact those directly served by the grant but their families and communities as well by removing barriers associated [with] the issues of poverty and mental health and providing opportunities to enter the workforce with the skills essential to succeed."

Community colleges take various approaches to helping students with housing. Columbus State Community College in Ohio, for example, features a Success Bridge Housing Stabilization program that provides financial assistance and information to students who are experiencing housing instability.

Community college financial aid and student life offices can help students find housing assistance. Some schools also employ benefits navigators to help students take advantage of local, state, and federal assistance programs.