Homeless College Students Get a Helping Hand

homeless college studentsIncreased Awareness Of Challenges Faced By Homeless College Students Leads To Action

When many of us think of college, we may envision a Saturday football game, grueling examinations, a sunny day on the green or perhaps graduation. Have you ever thought about attending college and being homeless? Unfortunately, today this problem is more prevalent than you may have ever imagined.

Emi Kolawole of the Washington Post wrote about this topic, “For homeless college students, every expense is a mountain to be climbed. The cost of a student ID, books, breakfast, lunch and dinner that many college students take for granted are an almost insurmountable challenge for homeless students seeking an education that is often advertised as one of the only paths to a better life.”

Homeless College Students Come From Many Situations, Including Foster Care 

He went on to discuss some statistics on homeless college students. “The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators met for its annual conference and the challenges facing homeless students were front and center. As Libby Nelson writes: The number of homeless youth has increased 69 percent in the past two years, to 1.6 million. Some are runaways; others are from chaotic family situations, maintaining contact with parents and siblings but spending the majority of nights on friends’ couches or in cars or mobile homes.”

Now factor in the rising cost of books and other supplies and we have a situation that affects students in transitional housing even more dramatically. NBC contributor Martha C. White wrote last fall, “Already grappling with skyrocketing tuition and fees, college students also must contend with triple-digit inflation on the price of textbooks. With the average student shelling out $1,200 a year just on books, students, professors and policy groups are searching for ways to circumvent the high cost of traditional textbooks. It’s no simple multiple-choice question. Growing rental and e-book markets lower prices but come with a convenience cost. Budding open-source textbook programs hold promise but aren’t mainstream yet. Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says 70 percent of students admit they just skip buying some books, saving money but often inflicting a high price on their academic success.”

Help Is On The Way For Homeless College Students In New Jersey

Last fall, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) applied for a grant to help ease the pressure on homeless New Jersey students. In 2013, there were at least 42 students who were in transitional housing, independent living arrangements or homeless. About 10 of these students had open cases with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. All of these young men and women had worked diligently in High School and dreamed of a college education. Yes, some state or federal governmental programs help pay for tuition and fees but do not provide support with required text books or other educational necessities. FAFS wanted to assist in these critical areas of a college education.

In late December 2013, FAFS received a $31,000 grant from the Dreams R Us Foundation to help with this situation and other purposes. The majority of the foundation’s funding will be managed by the FAFS Scholarship Department. The New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program has been administered by FAFS for 10 years.

Tara Rizzolo, M.S. Ed, FAFS Director of Scholarship Programs said, “We are excited to launch this new statewide program to help provide semester based awards to students for textbooks and educational necessities. The Breaking the Housing/Textbook Barrier Initiative shows FAFS’ commitment to helping young people. We are already sharing the information with dozens of potentially eligible students.” She added, “In addition this generous donation gives FAFS additional funds for three new private scholarship grants. Every year, during my tenure, we have seen an increasing number of students apply for FAFS private scholarship assistance.”

FAFS Board Member John Morino will work with Ms. Rizzolo and CEO Mary Jane Awrachow on the implementation of this initiative. He commented, “Wonderful news, just wonderful. This award needs to be publicized so as to make the plight of these young people made known. It is with true courage and strength that these young folks succeed but for as many who do there are many who don’t.”

“FAFS is constantly looking at new programs that reflect the current need in the foster care community. Many signature FAFS programs have come from discussing a particular need and then finding the resources to make a difference,” said Mary Jane Awrachow, FAFS Chief Executive Officer. “In the past year our office has received numerous calls from students who were living in transitional housing while attempting to further their education and reach for their dream of a college degree. With the generosity of Dreams R Us, we can now provide additional support to many of these students.”

FAFS will continue to seek additional project funding via foundation and private support in upcoming years. To help with financial support for the Breaking the Housing/Textbook Barrier Initiative, please contact a FAFS representative at 800.222.0047 or via email at development@fafsonline.org.

online poll by Opinion Stage

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