While college is already a huge transition for young adults, some college students face an entirely different hardship — homelessness.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) reported that there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide. FAFSA is the only reliable source for these statistics since colleges are not technically required to keep track of their homeless students.
Barbara Duffield — policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) — believes that the number of homeless college students has increased over the years.
“Parents tend to start focusing resources on younger kids, and sometimes that can lead to abuse and neglect,” Duffield says.
“Sometimes they just can’t take care of them anymore. But for most students, they haven’t had that support their whole lives.”
– Barbara Duffield
According to the NAEHCY, many homeless young adults who are trying to go to college don’t receive enough financial aid money because they are unable to fill out parental or guardian-related information on the forms.
Tina Giarla — a student at Salem State in Salem, Mass. — understands this all too well. Her father passed away in 2007 and her mother was constantly in and out of jail, so she classified as an “unaccompanied youth”. She initially lived on campus, but eventually, her resources ran out and she could no longer afford housing.
Giarla worked two-and-a-half jobs and went to school full-time. “I had to save extra money to rent a hotel in the case of an emergency so I wouldn’t have to go to a shelter,” she said. “It wasn’t a comfortable feeling.”
Efforts are being made to change this, though. Specifically, the recently passed Higher Education Act allows students to apply for federal aid without having parental information or a signature.
Additionally, some universities — such as UCLA — are implementing economic crisis response programs to help homeless college students stay in school.
Giarla plans on using her situations and experiences to spread the word and raise awareness about the growing population of homeless college students nationwide.