Homeless College Students Feel Stress of the Economy

Filed under: In The News, Teen Culture

Homeless college student picture

The high cost of tuition, housing and food has more and more college students reeling. Credit: Getty

The next time your college kid whines that she's the only one in her dorm without an iPad, or that her friends all have fully-stocked fridges, go ahead and tell her there are starving kids -- not just in Africa -- but sitting right next to her in chemistry.

You won't be exaggerating.

A growing population of collegians at schools across the country don't even have a dorm room, apartment or a place they can peacefully study. They're homeless, or worried about becoming so.

Though statistics on homeless college students are difficult to pin down, advocates for the poor say the numbers are shooting up, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

At the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, administrators and local agencies for the homeless say the economic downturn has spawned a phenomenon they're only beginning to measure and understand: college students with no stable housing, who sometimes show up at homeless shelters, according to the newspaper.

"Many MCTC students struggle with hunger and homelessness every day," says a report on the college's website. Out of 1,061 students surveyed, 103 said they were currently homeless, and 163 said they frequently could not afford a meal or groceries, according to the campus report.

In California, UCLA has created an Economic Crisis Response Team to try to identify financially strapped students and help keep them in school.

Antonio Sandoval, head of UCLA's Community Programs Office, tells NPR he doesn't know the exact number of students experiencing the day-to-day hardship of finding food and shelter because they often keep it hidden.

"It's very affluent here, it's Westwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills," he tells NPR. "Students who come to UCLA want to fit the norm here, so they're not going to tell you they're homeless, or they're not going to tell you they're hungry."

As the economy has tanked, efforts to help students and their families continue to grow, NPR reports. At the same time, enrollment at community colleges is rising, as students put off attending more expensive universities and some of the recently unemployed return to the classroom, the Star Tribune adds.

But, those aren't the only groups seeking refuge at community colleges due to the weak economy, experts say.

"It is a growing trend that people who are persistently poor and unhoused are taking advantage of programs at community colleges," Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., tells the Star Tribune.

In 2009, 47,204 college students applying for financial aid checked a box that identified themselves as homeless, Barbara Duffield, policy director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, tells the newspaper.

That statistic was not collected in previous years.

"What we're hearing from the college presidents and leadership (is) that more and more students are struggling," Michelle Asha-Cooper, of the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C., tells NPR.

More about homeless college students from our partner site:

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.