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On College Campuses, Homelessness Is A 'Hidden' Problem

Lorenz Marcellus, left, Ana Lobo and Zachary Wright have all been homeless at some point in their lives. But they are now part of a group of scholars at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, who are succeeding in college. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)

At least 57,000 college students are estimated to be homeless across the country, according to a survey of financial aid data.

And it’s a problem coast to coast. Last year, the University of California system said that about 1 in 10 of its students was homeless and 1 in 5 didn’t have enough to eat. A recent survey of Massachusetts colleges showed nearly half experienced a rise in homeless students in the last year.

Lorenz Marcellus knows what it’s like to do schoolwork in a shelter. The senior at Bridgewater State University in eastern Massachusetts lost his family home when he was a senior in high school. He lived in a motel before transitioning to a shelter.

"I remember after school thinking, 'Where am I going to sleep?' And it wasn't easy. It was hard on me mentally," he says.

The research on homelessness on college campuses is relatively scarce and most government resources go to younger children and students in high school, says Shirley Fan-Chan, who serves on the board of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

"This population is very invisible," she says. "Not a lot of college students want to come out and identify themselves as homeless. They figure things will be better now that they are in college, getting a better education, and things should be OK."

But often they are not. Fan-Chan and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Boston surveyed students who didn’t have secure housing, and found those students were more likely to fail courses and drop out of school.

The researchers say increased tuition and reduced state funding have contributed to the problem.

Credits Peter O’Dowd, Assistant Managing Editor, Here & Now

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