A study conducted by Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and shed light on housing insecuirty among college students.
The following is an excerpt from Goldrick-Rab's appearance.
The number of homeless college students struggling just like Bigham is hard to quantify, but it's big. According to financial aid applications, there are more than 68,000 students who claim to be homeless.
"I think the idea that hard-working, talented people who are trying to get an education are being derailed by homelessness, is a crisis," said Sara Goldrick-Rab, the leading national researcher on the problem. She's a professor of higher education policy at Temple University in Philadelphia, and the founder of the Hope Center.
"One of the things that's changed in the United States over time is that, if you grew up without money, we have sent a pretty strong signal to those students that financial aid is available, and you should try college, because it's your route out of poverty," Goldrick-Rab said.
Cowan said, "So, part of the problem is that people who weren't going to college before …"
"Go to college now. It's hard to view that as a problem. I'd say the problem is that they're going to college but we didn't build the support for them."
Unlike elementary and secondary school students, whose families can get some support from things like federal free breakfast and lunch programs, for college students much of that assistance dries up.
Goldrick-Rab says whenever she tells people about the problem of homeless students, they seem surprised and shocked: "It's been hidden. I think a lot of people didn't talk about it. I also think that most people just think about tuition; they don't think about living [expenses]."
Some of those struggling with housing responded to a recent survey that Goldrick-Rab conducted. It was the largest of its kind ever done, involving more than 43,000 students at 66 institutions. The result: Nearly one in ten college students said they were homeless in the last year, meaning they had at least one night where they didn't know where they were going to sleep.
"I tend to think the people who are struggling the most are not taking our surveys," said Goldrick-Rab, "and that's the part that scares me."
"That you don't know how deep the problem really is?"
"That the problem is actually a lot worse."
Colleges generally don't like to talk about homelessness, she said, and neither do most students.