The simple fact about college education these days is that students struggle with expenses and levels of precariousness that far exceed what students in previous generations faced, and that’s especially true when it comes to housing. In fact, roughly 60 percent of community college students, and 48 percent of four-year college students, face housing insecurity (defined as an inability to pay rent or utilities, or the need to move frequently), according to research from the Hope Center at Temple University. The same survey also found 18 percent of community college students, and 14 percent of four-year college students, have faced homelessness.
Much of the stereotypical college experience centers around living spaces, such as a student’s first dorm room or first rental apartment shared with friends. But colleges are increasingly admitting more and more students who don’t have the resources to pay for housing. That’s led to more programs like Florida Atlantic University’s Educate Tomorrow, which helps students who are at high risk of being sidetracked from their education by housing issues.
FAU’s program helps students navigate everything from applying for loans to providing a $500 stipend to decorate their dorm rooms. Since launching in 2014, the program has helped raise the graduation rate of this segment of the student population to 46 percent, compared to the national average of roughly 4 percent. FAU isn’t the only one with such a program. One example of which is Amarillo College in Texas, which uses an approach that can be best summed up as “operationalizing love.”
The man behind that term is Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, a member of the college staff who spent a winter weekend homeless o he could better relate to the experiences of his students. He’s also pioneered a program to help students facing economic insecurity that, for all its talk of love, is firmly based in analytics, data, and strong return on investment. the Amarillo model focuses on rapid reaction. Students facing housing insecurity or homelessness can quickly access food pantries and supportive services.
Lowery-Hart and his staff also utilize predictive analytics to figure out which students may need help. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Lowery-Hart and his staff are ready to provide emergency housing and loans at a moment’s notice.
Amarillo College is an incredible example of how we can deal with homelessness at college and one we hope other universities take note of.