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Half Of College Students Face Housing Issues While 1 In 5 Are Homeless, Says New Survey

Jason Halley
California State University, Chico
Kathleen Moroney is the vice president of student affairs at Chico State University in California. She started the food pantry to help hungry college students.

A national survey out Wednesday shows that 4 out of 10 college students experienced food insecurity in the past month while about half of them are dealing with housing challenges. Some – 17% – are actually homeless.

Vanessa Coca’s a senior researcher at the Hope Center of College, Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She says the first year they heard back from 4300 students. Five years in, 330,000 have now responded.

“Our results are fairly consistent,” Coca says. “Which suggest to us that basic needs and security is a condition challenging a large segment of students across the U.S.”

Coca says at first the survey focused on 2-year community college students, because they generally face the most challenges. Schools in the Dallas County system were included in the research.  Now, 4-year schools are also part of the latest survey.  It hardly matters. All students face food and housing challenges.

“There is evidence that shows that housing insecurity, for example,  does affect student’s outcomes,” Coca says. “And this could be grades, attendance and just ultimately, the likelihood of finishing college. Basic needs and security does pose a threat to a student’s likelihood of completing their programs.”

So a growing number of colleges are partnering with local officials to help students with the likes of paying the rent or keeping the lights on. Hungry students may be eligible for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.