How to Simultaneously Lower College Tuition and Solve the Homeless Crisis

Two of the most pressing challenges facing Americans are unaffordable college tuition and an epidemic of homelessness. But an elegant solution is just waiting to be implemented by some innovative, progressive state or region. House the homeless on college campuses.

It isn’t as though colleges and universities across America aren’t already searching for new sources of revenue. A December 19 article in the Wall Street Journal headlined “Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate” describes a new trend: Baby Boomers entering retirement at the same time as college enrollments are projected to decline.

So across America, colleges and universities, which have already opened hotels and restaurants on campus to earn profits from visiting parents and faculty, are now building and selling condos for seniors.

Why not go one step further, and admit America’s homeless?

Doing this is consistent with the general mission and mentality of the faculty and administrators at America’s institutions of higher learning. After all, social justice indoctrination will be far more effective if it isn’t merely academic. Allow academia to practice real world equity; real world diversity; real world inclusion.

There might be a few hiccups implementing such a plan. For example, on-campus cultural safe spaces, which would be excellent venues for homeless people to be afforded sanctuary, would have to be desegregated. Otherwise, campuses would not be eligible for FEMA money, HUD grants, or Section 8 vouchers—all of which cannot be tapped unless true integration is practiced.

Similarly, dormitories catering to students of disadvantaged or underrepresented genders and ethnicities would have to be desegregated, in order to permit the homeless to occupy adjacent rooms. Ideally—and in the spirit of equity, diversity, and inclusion—it might be best to integrate the homeless into each dorm room, so that each room would have a homeless person and a student living in it.

A Triumph for “Inclusionary Zoning”

While an unwoke individual might be concerned that many homeless people are substance abusers, criminals, or mentally ill, a more enlightened and woke perspective would not find this troubling in the least. Integrating America’s homeless population with America’s college students would be a natural extension of “inclusionary zoning” which has become a basic principle of progressive urban planning.

According to the “science-based” policy of inclusionary zoning, “the role of inclusionary zoning is to encourage the development of affordable housing in low poverty neighborhoods, thereby helping foster greater social and economic mobility and integration.” If this is the policy being rolled out in America’s progressive towns and cities, certainly it can also be rolled out on the campuses from which these progressive concepts originated. College campuses are, almost by definition, “low-poverty neighborhoods.”

And to the extent that “greater social and economic mobility and integration” does not succeed in motivating the homeless to forego continued drug and alcohol abuse, or provide the stability that is the prerequisite to alleviating their mental illness, or the “security from want” so they will no longer commit crimes, then perhaps the students and faculty may adapt, since it is only their privilege that prevents them from succumbing to these pathologies themselves, and since it is their obligation as woke progressives to make ongoing reparations to these victims of society.

And in any case, wouldn’t any conscientious progressive agree that heroin addiction is a legitimate lifestyle choice?

The logistics of integrating America’s homeless with America’s college students and faculty are not terribly daunting. Using California as an example, the numbers easily work. California has nine University of California campuses with 238,000 students and over 190,000 faculty and staff. These are elite schools, filled with world class progressive minds, eager to demonstrate their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

A Win for Diversity and Inclusion

A successful program to house California’s 140,000 homeless could start with the University of California, since all of these schools have spacious campuses including hospitals and clinics, along with thousands of dormitories and other structures that could be adapted for housing.

Best of all, the University of California campuses are located in the urban areas where California’s homeless are concentrated. In the Bay Area, there is UC San Francisco, Hastings Law School, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz. In close proximity to the state capitol there is UC Davis. And in Southern California, there are five sprawling urban campuses, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC San Diego. Together, these five Southern California campuses occupy nearly 7,000 acres, over 10 square miles of prime urban land. Much of this land is unused, offering ample area for tent cities. Bring in the Army Corps of Engineers. Surely there’s space for 140,000 homeless people!

Many high ranking UC officials, if they are true to their ideals, will endorse this proposal. Jerry Kang, for example, UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, during 2018 earned $468,919 in pay and benefits. In return for this lavish compensation, Kang and his devoted staff produced, for example, “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Statements,” now required to be completed by all UCLA faculty applicants. Kang delivers talks on “inclusion strategies,” and surely would love to include the homeless on his list of disadvantaged and underrepresented groups to bring on campus.

A skeptic might suggest that there may not be enough room on UC campuses to accommodate 140,000 people, but such skepticism reveals a poverty of imagination. Why not house the homeless in the hallways and offices of Jerry Kang’s Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Bring them in, and let them indulge their diverse lifestyles as they coexist with these intrepid, and very well compensated, woke warriors.

Doubters might consider UCLA’s well-compensated Kang to be an outlier, but he’s not. Here are some of the others: UC Berkeley, Oscar Dubón, Jr., vice chancellor for equity and inclusion; UC Davis, Adela de la Torre, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus diversity; UC Irvine, Doug Haynes, vice provost for academic equity, diversity and inclusion; UC Merced, Luanna Putney, associate chancellor and senior advisor to the chancellor on ethics and compliance; UC Riverside, Mariam Lam, associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity; UC San Diego, Becky Petitt, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion; UC San Francisco, Renee Navarro, vice chancellor for diversity and outreach; UC Santa Barbara, Maria Herrera-Sobek, associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and academic policy; UC Santa Cruz, Ashish Sahni, associate chancellor of the office of diversity, equity and inclusion.

For that matter, when examining administrative bloat at the universities—the real reason for unaffordable tuition—why stop at the diversity bureaucracy?

A 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times gets at the bigger picture. Between 2000 and 2015 the UC system added a modest number of new faculty, growing faculty headcount from just over 7,000 to nearly 9,000. But during that same 15-year period, the university more than doubled the number of administrators, from 4,500 to just over 10,500. Put another way, the ratio of teachers to bureaucrats in just 15 years changed from 1.5-1 in favor of teachers to 1.2-1 in favor of bureaucrats.

Surely all these bureaucrats, steeped in the art of creating safe spaces and promulgating progressive ideology can have their jobs repurposed? Surely they may now turn their diligence towards accommodating and providing wrap-around services for California’s homeless, in all their diversity.

And who knows? Maybe students and teachers alike, when confronted with the consequences of progressive policies, might experience some teachable moments. Maybe they would then realize that compassion in the real world isn’t as simple as embracing socialist ideology.

Why should academia be merely for the academics? If they are changing our world, perhaps it’s time for us to change theirs.

About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: Dejan/Getty Images

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