Homeless Students Need Educational Supports Beyond Financial Aid, Experts Respond to GAO Report


Homeless Students Need Educational Supports Beyond Financial Aid, Experts Respond to GAO Report

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 29, 2016) — Excerpt of Article: For foster youth, coming of age often means lacking a permanent home and having minimal resources—financial and otherwise—for the next stage of their lives. They and other homeless young people are the subject of a new report out from the Government Accountability Office. Much federal policy about homeless youth has focused on elementary and secondary education. Now the GAO is recommending work from colleges as well as government to make it possible for more students to get into school and off the streets.

The statistics on youth homelessness are disheartening. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates 1.3 million teens are sleeping on the street each night. Data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures states that numbers are rising, that most homeless youth are female, and that a large number are pregnant. And 75% of homeless or runaway youth have already dropped out of high school or soon will...

Kennesaw State has been working with homeless students proactively for nearly a decade. Their CARE Center serves youth who have been in the foster care system and those dealing with hunger, in addition to current or at-risk of homelessness. Campus Awareness, Resource, and Empowerment (CARE) was formally organized in 2013, but campus efforts to educate about housing issues were already a tradition. Students can participate in a sleep-out event to get a glimpse of the stress just one night without stable shelter entails.

Short term housing situations can lead to college trouble if they aren’t addressed, so CARE can intervene with crisis management help. Marcy Stidum, director of CARE, gives one example of how the Center kept one young man in school.

“We had a male student who was a KSU senior who transferred from Middle Georgia College to finish his degree. When his residence plans fell through, he found himself struggling with homelessness at the start of the semester. The CARE Center helped him find a room at the Cobb Street Ministry, where he stayed for three weeks. Due to their strict curfew, he missed his afternoon classes. However, his professors were very flexible and allowed him to work from home.” This student graduated in December 2015, having received financial help getting a room and meal plan on campus.

One step colleges can easily take is to designate a Single Point of Contact (SPOC). The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth says this person can help homeless students navigate the forms and processes at college. Just having help knowing what resources are available can make the difference between a student getting help early or dropping out when problems arise.

Stidum says a campus-wide ‘Culture of Caring’ laid the foundation for the center; a genuine goal of all involved parties to help students achieve life success, not just academics. “The CARE Center developed over time to a mission and social justice model of providing a comprehensive response to eradicate the struggle of homelessness, food insecurity and/or any negative impact from being in foster care for any college student, by fostering emotional well-being, access to nutrition and financial sustainability and thereby improving their ability to obtain academic success,” she explains.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu