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The Real Cost of College

Nathan Collins, Research Intern SBNC

May 2021

Much of our society in the United States hinges on or around the debate of education. In a society that dictates either an undergraduate degree or 3-5 years of necessary work experience, education is certainly a crucial factor for most. The Real College survey administered by the Hope Center showed that out of nearly 86,000 participating students, 56% reported being housing insecure, and 17% were homeless in the previous year. Along with that data, the Hope Center hypotheses that many different disparities add to this rising issue of housing insecurity among college students in both two-year and four-year universities, such as race, age, income, and sexuality to name a few. These factors illustrate a bigger picture defining the housing insecurity that these college students face. The social contribution aspect of what these students bring to the table as far as the national economy also plays a role in the pertinent need for protecting the housing insecure student population. This brief will begin by examining the main causes of college student homelessness, with a specific look into the ways students combat these issues. The brief will conclude with three ways in which policymakers might go about resolving some of the problems relating to housing that college students face.

The necessity of higher academia in any sense is depicted in many facets of the United State including the job market, and the room for growth within any industry. Being as this is the case, college students face a set of unique challenges about making it to college and being successful. With nearly 60% of two-year college students who participated in the Hope Center survey reporting housing insecurity, and 48% for four-year college students, the predominant narrative of issues facing college students is shifting (College and University Basic Needs Insecurity, The Hope Foundation, 2019). State safety nets and support programs usually associated with starving college students most often, such as food stamps and rent deferment are not received by students. This situation begs the question, who is protecting the vulnerable population in higher academia? According to US News Best Colleges, the average total cost for a four-year private university in 2020-21 was $41,411, $11,171 per year for in-state tuition at public schools, and $26,809 for out-of-state tuition. These figures depict the larger narrative of college students. An increased demand from the job market, equating to more students seeking higher academia paired with tuition hikes results in the statistics outlined in the Hope Center regarding college student homelessness.



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