Over the past five years of living on my own while going to college, I realized it is no joke trying to provide for yourself. I was not alone.
Over 58,000 college students identified as homeless on the 2013 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). I ran into many students who had no place to stay whether they were in school or not. I’ve had friends who stay in two bedroom apartments and there would be six people staying in the apartment. The majority of college students have to choose between paying off their school bill and paying the rent and utilities. Let’s not forget food and gas. With tuition going up every year, it almost makes it impossible for some students to finish school.
The various reasons why college students are homeless can go on and on. The top leading factors explaining why so many college students are homeless include: a parent losing a job, a lack of affordable housing, and rising tuition costs. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to finish school. A lot of students are taught that in order to get ahead you need to get your degree. But what happens when students do graduate from college and they still aren’t able to find jobs to help create a better future? The four to six years students spend in college teaches them discipline and responsibility. Potential homeless college students who have never known anything but a temporary lifestyle often strongly believe education provides a way out of their current situation. Whether abandoned, forced to move out of their family home due to repeated issues, or a runaway, many homeless youth bounce between family members and friends.
Thankfully, many universities are now putting arrangements in place to help faculty understand how to best serve these students. College advisors can reassure homeless students they aren’t alone in their endeavors and remind them it’s never too late to redirect their futures. They also provide lists of on-campus and local resources to help them succeed, containing information about free counseling services to help students work through their feelings of shame. The city of Detroit has a program founded by Wayne State University’s first lady, Jacqueline Wilson, called the HIGH Program (Helping Individuals Go Higher) so that students do not have to choose between financing basic necessities and earning a degree. This program helps financially stressed students at Wayne State University reach their goal to graduate. The program provides resources for students-in-need such as housing support, textbooks and other school supplies, clothing, transportation, and child-care assistance. The mission of the program is to ensure that no student abandons their dream of earning a degree solely because of housing or financial challenges. My question is how do we get more of these programs started and recognized so that students are encouraged and motivated to pursue their dreams?
If you know someone in college who is ashamed to talk to someone about their living situations, assure them that there are resources they can look into. Visit your campus resources department and don’t be afraid to look into public housing and food centers. Let’s help our students graduate to provide a better life for themselves. After all, we are the future of America.
For additional information on the HIGH program visit highprogram.wayne.edu.
Kristy Stanford is a Media Personality and Motivational Speaker. She is a recent graduate of Eastern Michigan University, where she studied in Electronic Media Film Studies and Comprehensive Communication. She enjoys doing interviews with different brands and businesses for her website KristyLoveMedia.com. Kristy also is an inspirational blogger and does photography and event hosting on the side.