Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why University Students are Becoming America's Latest Victims of Homelessness

by Nomad

Although we probably all have a stereotype of the homeless, a closer look often reveals that the victims are not so different than you or me. Here's one example.

The Newest Demographic

In this month's Rolling Stone, Rebecca Nathanson writes that our nation's best and brightest are quickly becoming casualties to homelessness. (see link below)
Last year, more than 56,000 students identified as homeless on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form. But the real number of homeless students is almost certainly higher:
As remarkable and disappointing as that figure might seem, that number doesn't include those students who are ineligible to qualify as homeless because the lack of proof, (such as verification from a shelter.)

Additionally, the figure also doesn't represent the large number of college students whose living arrangements are unstable and insecure. To be sure that's a different form of homelessness, which may mean sleeping in one's car, a campus library or being a guest with friends.

One of the chief reasons for this situation is fairly simple. 
College costs are out of control and family incomes have, for some time now, not kept up. In fact, tuition at four-year universities has soared on average 500% since 1985. Meanwhile, real wages — that is, after inflation is taken into account — have been flat or even falling for decades, according to Pew Research.

Nathanson's article also points out:
Public university tuition has almost quadrupled over the past 35 years, and average student loan debt has increased from $18,550 in 2004 to $28,950 in 2014, meaning that students face this burden both during school and for decades after.
Today, middle-class university students may just end up homeless before they finish their education
That's pretty ironic too. The whole point of higher education is supposed to increase one's chances of finding a well-paying job to keep one from becoming homeless.

An article in Bloomberg quotes Michelle Cooper, president of the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP):
“The “skyrocketing” increases exacerbate income inequality by depriving those of less means of the schooling they need to advance and may also derail the “prestige and status” of U.S. higher education."
More than that, it's a threat to one of America's most treasured concepts: the potential for class mobility. As IHEP observes:
Higher education is a crucial pathway to social and economic mobility.
Meanwhile, in May, Republican Congress- made up largely of millionaires- passed a budget that would eliminate or roll back a series of federal programs aimed at making college more affordable and student debt more manageable. 

That doesn't make much sense at a time when a reported 45 % of students who graduate will be unable to pay their loans. At this time, according to one source, student loan debt in the United States has exceeded the $1.2 trillion mark — $1 trillion of that is in federal student loan debt. 
That's higher than credit card debt.

Inequality at a University Level

Despite the explosion in tuition rates and the squeezing of the middle-class student, the salaries of private college presidents continues to climb, up 5.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 to a median of $436,000.

That kind of imbalance is just a mirror of the corporate world and the salaries of CEOs, where the average CEO of Standard & Poor's 500 companies were paid 216 times more than the median employees at their companies.

It's no wonder that a Pew Research Center poll conducted last May showed that around half of adults in the US felt that "the current trends point toward their children’s future being worse than their own present."

Tens of Thousands of College Students Have Nowhere to Sleep

LaTia Daniels started at Kennesaw State University as a walk-on to the school's track and field team, earning an athletic scholarship on top of her federal financial aid. When she quit the team to focus more on her studies, and that athletic scholarship disappeared, she compensated by getting a job through a temp agency.