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Published On: Mon, Sep 5th, 2016

College Students in Crisis: Why Homelessness and Hunger is Growing in Our Young Scholars

It’s the American dream to grow educated and become successful.  A core education is the ‘key to the kingdom.’  Yet, for many college-aged students, the pursuit of higher education is aligned with added stresses related to a lack of money, and in some cases, nowhere to call home.  More than 50,000 college students were categorized as ‘homeless’ last year.  A number of agencies are working towards solving the problem before the numbers grow.

More than 56,000

The 56,000 comes from those who identify being homeless on their FAFSA forms, yet the number is likely higher.  For example, some of those who are homeless may lack the necessary proof, such as paperwork from a homeless shelter.  Also, ‘homeless’ is a subjective term; there are more students who do not have a permanent residence and rely on family, friends, and acquaintances, spending nights here and there to get by.  Some students, too proud or embarrassed to admit their predicament, hide the truth from friends and teachers.  As one homeless student admitted, “I didn’t want to tell people I was living out of my car.”

photo 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

photo 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

The Homeless and Foster Youth Act

Some government officials realize the intensity of the plight of college students.  But, those who desire to go to college, currently in foster homes, may also become among the 56,000 and growing without the proper resources.  Washington Senator, Patty Murray, introduced the Homeless and Foster Youth Act.  It seeks to inspire colleges to be proactive in reaching out to high school and foster care hopefuls who are in need of financial aid.  Moreover, the bill seeks to streamline the Federal Aid form, making it clearer and easier for students to access the aid they badly need, before it’s too late.  Also, it seeks to label particular students, under the age of 24, as independents, so they can more easily secure funds for tuition and housing.

A Growing Number and Problem

Without proper action, it’s highly likely that the number of homeless students will only grow.  Consider the disproportionate rate of tuition hikes versus worker wages and the availability of jobs for the young and inexperienced.  In 2004, the average student loan debt was $10,000 less than 2014, a reason why government officials and agencies understand that money is not just a problem for students about to enter college but for those who have matriculated as well.  The Higher Education Helpline began as a means of educating and helping those already in college and struggling with associated debt.

The Changing Face of Homelessness

One may assume that those who grow up within the foster care system are the ones who are most susceptible to homelessness, yet the proclivity for ending up without a home or means to afford one is widening.  For many college students, tuition, books, clothing, and other common needs force them to live paycheck to paycheck.  Some students devote a portion of their pay to help family members.  The meager income makes it so that many are only an emergency or tough break away from being homeless.  In some cases, the needs of satisfying curriculum serves as a detriment; a student may need to take on an (unpaid) internship to satisfy their class requirements, which makes it less likely they can study, serve as an intern, and work at the same time.  Teagueandgloverlaw.com has resources for those who are in need of legal counsel due to personal injury, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and beyond.

The Proliferation of Food Banks and Apps

In 2008, there were four on-campus food banks.  In 2014, that number grew to 121.  The money troubles do not discriminate.  Even those who are attending prestigious Ivy League schools have financial hardships.  Two Columbia attendants started an app that allows students to give and receive meals from their meal plans.  As the food banks and apps prove, many students are not only concerned about a roof over their heads but also worry about where to find their next meal.

Focus in the Wrong Places

Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, discussed the hierarchy of needs, asserting that if base needs (food, shelter, clothing) are not met, people will lack the focus and determination to progress.  Today’s college students who lack the monetary needs to secure a home place focus in the wrong places.  How is one expected to excel in classes while worrying about finding a place to sleep and food to eat?  Even those who overcome adversity, no longer finding themselves homeless, are not entirely focused.  The constant anxiety and fear related to regressing tears the immediate attention away from such students.

Guest Author :

Gabriel Richardson is a personal finance consultant. As a Father who has 1 son in college, he is using his new-found knowledge to writes some personal finance articles for students, and parents of students to highlight common problems.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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