Friday, April 07, 2017

Growing number of community college students, even in rural areas, are homeless

UCLA's Students 4 Students has sheltered eight
long-term students since October. (NYT photo)
A growing number of community college students, including those in rural areas, are homeless, Elizabeth Harris reports for The New York Times. The Wisconsin HOPE Lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, released a study last month of 70 community colleges in 24 states, finding that 14 percent of students are homeless. California State University released a similar study last year that found that 8 to 12 percent of community college students in California are homeless. Harris reports, "In 2015-16, 32,000 college applicants were identified as 'unaccompanied homeless youth' on federal student aid forms, a number widely considered to be a low count."

Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the HOPE Lab and a professor of higher education policy at Temple University in Philadelphia, said one the main reasons for student homelessness is an increase in low-income students that lack a safety net if they run into financial problems, Harris writes. If they lose their job, or get kicked out by roommates, they might lack the funds to find another place to live, while at the same time, their parents are unable to afford to help them out financially.

Other reasons are an aging student population—the average age for community college students is 29—and a lack of high-paying jobs for people without college degrees, Harris writes. The HOPE study found that only 11 percent of homeless students made more than $15 an hour.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, told Harris, “This is not just happening in urban poor communities. It affects kids from working-class families across the state, in rural communities and in communities of color. Homelessness now affects working-class and formerly middle-class families.”

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