College poverty: The disturbing story

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Franco Folini/ Flickr

Shaquille Blackstock
         Staff Writer

As November edges closer and closer to the holiday season, it is relevant to think about all of the people who may not have as much to be excited for.

According to the Census Bureau, the rate of college students living in poverty is at about 15.2 percent. While this number is alarming, it does not account for college students living off-campus unsupported by relatives.

When considering this group of students, the Census Bureau shows the rate of students living below the poverty line jump to 51.8 percent. This is a frightening revelation.

College students who live on campus are automatically eliminated from the Census Bureau’s poverty calculations for their respective areas and for the country overall, but students who live off-campus are not, and could help paint a more realistic picture of what poverty can look like, especially during college.

The Census Bureau data also reveals that in counties with high proportions of college students relative to the total population, the poverty rate declines when eliminating off-campus college students, and in most cases, this drop is statistically significant. For example, in Monroe County, Indiana, home to Indiana University, the poverty rate is 25.5 percent but drops to 13.8 percent when excluding off-campus college students.

The Carolinian published an article a few weeks ago about the Daisy Trader, which supplies first year college students with supplies, like school materials and dorm room needs for those who have no other access to these detrimental goods.

There are also other initiatives on campus, like the Open Pantry, to help fulfill the needs of students who don’t have a steady supply of food available. The Spartan Open Pantry sees about 30 to 40 people a week, some of whom may be coming for themselves and others who might be coming in for families of four or five.

Those in need can expect to get up to two bags of recyclable bags with groceries, as well as toiletries like shampoo, conditioner and other necessities.

The first thing on the Open Pantry website is: “Life has many seasons, and at times all of us struggle.” Some of the other sobering findings of the Census Bureau revealed that many students still lived at home with their parents, suggesting that even the major life staple of going to college and being on one’s own are often compromised by an unforgiving economy.

       The Daisy Trader grew from the UNCG Guarantee Program, and started as a very small donation closet. According to the project’s GoFundMe page, it takes about $500 on average to accompany each student with the necessities that they need to come to college.

It is meant for students at 100 percent poverty, who have good grades and just need the physical necessities to come to college with. Many times, these students are only able to bring themselves to college, because that is all they have.

Judging by these two projects, the battle against poverty is particularly rough for millennial college students.

       According to the FAFSA records for 2012-2013, there were over 58,000 homeless students in America.

Homeless students may live on campus and they may not. For those that do live on campus, the issue is only rectified for a season, as during the holidays, most campuses close, so these students are out on the streets again.

However, dorms are not free. Without the privilege of on or off-campus housing, many homeless students attend school during the day and return to shelters at night; if they are even able to access shelters. Unfortunately, homeless shelters can overcrowd and are not always safe, leaving many students to live on the streets.

According to 2012-2013 FASFA reports, this figure marks a 75% increase of homelessness in recent years. However, these numbers could be higher due to shame.

Some students do not want to admit their situation, or may not even realize that they are technically homeless, because they are considered ‘couch surfers’.



Categories: Features, Human Interest, Investigative, Uncategorized

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