Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Pandemic shutdowns at universities leave some rural students homeless

For many college students, a dormitory room is the only place they can reliably sleep. But many universities have gone to online-only instruction during the pandemic, leaving such students with nowhere to go. For rural students, the lack of broadband access can make it even harder to complete online coursework, Jamie Fields and Katie Surma report for Arizona State University's Cronkite News. The U.S. Department of Education classifies an estimated 1.5 million American students as homeless due to unstable living situations.

"Rural homeless people, especially students, are largely invisible, and estimates of their numbers vary," Fields and Surma report. "For example, [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] estimated in 2019 there were about 100,000 homeless people living in rural America. But that same year, the nonprofit Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness reported the number of homeless students alone was more than 162,000." The rural homeless are less visible (and less countable) because they often couch-surf and are less likely to stay at shelters. 

Since universities can't keep an eye on homeless students as easily, such students may not receive meals, basic health care or other critical services, Fields and Surma report.

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