Financial Assistance for UCSB Students
Through a collaborative force between several departments across campus, students with financial hardships can receive much-needed help through a new Housing voucher program.
In line with the University & Community Housing Services Office’s mission of providing students with a safe living situation, the Housing vouchers, so far, have gone to more than a dozen students since being implemented late last year.
The program is a joint partnership between Housing, Dining & Auxiliary Services, the Veteran Resources Center, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, the Financial Crisis Response Team, and Social Work Services, among others. “Partnering with other departments to ensure students have access to a good living situation is a reward in itself,” said Mario Muñoz, Associate Director for UCHS.
Circumstances have varied from students who need a few nights at local hotel to get out of a dangerous domestic situation, to those who are experiencing unexpected medical emergencies, or simply, for someone who just needs that extra help to allow them to focus on their academic goals.
According to Rebecca Plotkin, Basic Needs Coordinator from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, this past Fall the team gave vouchers to a student who was served a three-day eviction notice and has no family for support. The Housing vouchers assistance allowed them to address their rent expenses until their financial aid refund became available shortly thereafter, she said.
“Assistance surrounding emergency housing goes beyond supporting students in their housing needs ─ as this in turn enables them to be in a safe and secure living environment, increases food accessibility, as well as improves mental health and academic performance,” Plotkin added.
Hundreds of vouchers were printed in increments of $500, $100 and $25 to give to UCSB students, and each is given its own serial number to ensure every dollar goes solely to a student’s Housing situation, whether it be the aforementioned hotel stay, or for students living in the community.
To apply for the Housing vouchers, a student submits an application to the Financial Crisis Response Team. Once awarded, the student will take their vouchers to the UCHS office and funds will be applied to their BARC account and go straight to their University rent, or a check will be cut for to pay the hotel or landlord.
The initial allotment for the vouchers was $400,000, which came from Janet Napolitano’s office. Money was distributed to each UC campus, with the understanding that it had to be used toward Housing services.
“One of my favorite aspects of this work includes delivering the good news to student recipients,” Plotkin said. “Student reactions to receiving housing vouchers have been very positive. They have expressed sincere gratitude, as in many scenarios they were days away from being homeless or housing insecure. For many, this can be the difference of remaining a student at UCSB. This joint effort has been a substantial relief for students in need.”
By Becky Villaneda