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The Unseen Student without Shelter-1

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The Unseen Student without Shelter-1

  1. 1. The Unseen Student without Shelter: College Homelessness By: Matthew J. Pearson 19007288 POS2041 15 November 2015 Executive Summary: There is a unique group of college students in our nationface complex challenges that are unlike those of their peers. These college students are homeless. Along with attempting to study diligently, complete homework assignments and attend class, these students must also worry about food insecurity and where they may study or rest safely every night. These individuals have seen the evidence that a college education can benefit them greatly, and have high hopes of overcoming the situation they are in by reaching high for a degree. The United States Department of Education should investigate ways to assist these students, who face unique challenges, and equip higher learning institutions with the resources to students who may face these unique financial, nutritional, and shelter challenges.
  2. 2. It was estimated according to Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data that 58,000 students might be homeless in the college system in the year 2013.1 FAFSA is the only reliable data available to provide this estimate, but they're not even required to track it. This data only accounts for a voluntary sample of the population that applied for federal aid through FAFSA, it does not take into account those students that were unable to apply for the FAFSA. In fact, most colleges do not track student homelessness because it is not required of them. Student homelessness is a complex, case-by-case issue so it's difficult to track, assist and address. This is an invisible population that has no real specialized focus from any institution or organization. Students who face this issue of homelessness have a less than 10% chance of ever completing any form of certification and become trapped in this cycle.2 Homeless students are unique, and they face complex challenges that are unlike those of their peers. These college students are not only attempting to study diligently, complete homework assignments and attend class. They must also worry about food insecurity and where they may study or rest safely every night. These individuals have seen the evidence that a college education can benefit them greatly, and have high hopes of overcoming the situation they are in by reaching high for a degree. Because of their dedication, there should be no question as to whether these students should receive assistance specialized towards their unique situations. Although this is a growing trend around the US with individual institutions addressing the needs of their own students, there is no requirement to do so. We should applaud the colleges and 1 College, Lexy. "College Campuses See Rise in Homeless Students." USA Today. October 21, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/21/homeless-students-american- colleges/3144383/. 2 Friedrich, Alex. "Homework but No Home: Colleges Struggle to Help Homeless Students." Homework but No Home: Colleges Struggle to Help Homeless Students.June 17, 2014. Accessed October3, 2015. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/06/17/homeless-minnesota-higher-ed
  3. 3. universities that have already been pro-active on this issue, but this is not enough. We must also challenge and require those institutions that have neglected, whether intentionally or unintentionally, these students in need. As a whole, as a nation we have neglected theses students. Now more than ever, in this slowly recovering economy, we should address the issues that no one has looked at before. Quinton D. Geis was pursuing his Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and for his thesis, he focused on the experiences of college students who faced the challenges of homelessness. The economic instability, social isolation and difficulty navigating the collegial environment are issues for all of the students he interviewed.3 The data Geis gathered suggest that participants hid their homelessness from their peers and administration alike, which does make this a more complicated issue to address, because these students who need our assistance most are also trying their hardest to go unnoticed and to blend in with students that are living the normal college experience. These college students that are facing these challenges, like one called Derek in Geis’ paper, have no location to call home, and shift from friend’s couches to gas stations, park benches and campus to sleep and work when they can.4 Derek chose to pursue college to better his life. Derek suffers from alcohol addiction, and because of this he chooses to avoid the local shelter because of the negative experience and exposure to temptation to give in to his addiction. If Derek had a support system at his college, he could grow even further as a person and academically. The university that Geis conducted his 3 Geis, Quinton D., "Exploring the Academic and Social Experiences of Homeless College Students" (2015). Educational Administration: Theses,Dissertations,and Student Research. Paper 234. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=cehsedaddiss 4 ibid
  4. 4. research at as of spring of 2015 had no office that specifically address the needs of homeless students, although it does have other resource offices that could potentially assist homeless students in some capacity as these offices offer resources for students with a low socio- economical background.5 This university is a large, public, land-grant university, and there are many around our nation like it. These public universities are state-funded, and indirectly federally funded. Because of this the Department of Education, and the committees in Congress that focus on Higher Education issues in both chambers, should investigate ways to incentivize state and public higher learning institutions to track these populations and develop network systems that would best support these students that are in need. A uniform policy for each public institution would be beneficial, but of course this issue is not uniformly distributed across the United States. A simple and realistic start to resolve and assist these students would be simply require funding for an office that would work directly and specifically for these students in need. This office must work as confidentially as possible, make it appealing to college students, who, like any person, can be prideful. The more discreet this office can function, the more efficient it can be at addressing and reaching these students that are in need. This office would of course need to educate and broadcast out to students that there are resources available for them. The most discreet way colleges can spread the news about these resources and this newly funded office would be through another member of administration already found on all college campuses. The financial aid office is an invaluable tool in the cause to spread awareness of a specific built office that would support students facing homelessness. Spreading information is key, if these students are not aware that they these resources are 5 Ibid.
  5. 5. available, they will stay in need and will no successfully navigate the college experience and sadly never complete the ultimate goal of completing their education. With stipulations in place for advertisement and others in place for anonymity we have the strong foundation to assisting students who may be facing homelessness. To fully understand the need of these students we also need to organize a commission on the federal level which all these colleges and Universities may report to, this commission can draw from the model of the FAFSA and members of the Department of Education, Congress and college presidents from regions that may have already started making movement on this issue. This commission can collect data from local colleges and universities and extrapolate means to best assist these students. The commission would be designed to propose legislation, advise the Ways and Means and Appropriation committees of Congress on ways to fund these offices by grants based on need. With a unified federal front, we can address the issue of college homelessness most effectively, efficiently and comprehensively. These students in need are potentially in every community in the United States and unfortunately may fall in between the cracks of existing welfare systems. Offices on their local campuses may help at the very least in assisting students with paperwork and applying for federal assistance, these offices may also connect students with local charities in the community or direct them to organizations and housing and provide a safer learning environment for students who struggle with housing instability.
  6. 6. Works Cited: College, Lexy. "College Campuses See Rise in Homeless Students." USA Today. October 21, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/21/homeless -students-american- colleges/3144383/. Friedrich, Alex. "Homework but No Home: Colleges Struggle to Help Homeless Students." Homework but No Home: Colleges Struggle to Help Homeless Students.June 17, 2014. Accessed October3, 2015. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/06/17/homeless-minnesota-higher-ed Geis, Quinton D., "Exploring the Academic and Social Experiences of Homeless College Students" (2015). Educational Administration: Theses,Dissertations,and Student Research. Paper 234. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=cehsedaddiss

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