36% of Four Year College Students Face Housing Insecurity

Housing Insecurity: 12% and 9% of Students at Two-Year Community Colleges and Four-Year Colleges Experience Homelessness

College students responding to a survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab reveal a high degree of housing insecurity as well as food insecurity.

  • Forty-six percent of students at two-year community colleges and 36% at four-year colleges experienced some degree of housing insecurity during the past year.
  • Twelve percent and 9% of students at two-year community colleges and four-year colleges, respectively, experienced homelessness.

These results are included in a new report, Still Hungry and Homeless in College.

Forty-three thousand students from 31 community colleges and 35 four-year colleges voluntarily responded to questions about housing and food insecurity.

Housing insecurity was defined broadly to include:

  • people who have difficulty paying rent,
  • who are forced to move frequently, or
  • who live in crowded conditions to pay the rent. Food insecurity was defined as limited access to nutritious food.

Cumberland County College, Raritan Valley Community College, and Seton Hall University, all in New Jersey, participated in the report’s survey.

In the past year:

  1. 21% of community-college students and 13% of four-year college students had a rent increase that made their housing costs difficult to pay.
  2. Eighteen percent of community college students and 10% of four-year college students were unable to pay their rent in full.
  3. Eleven percent of community college students and 7% of four-year college students lived in overcrowded living arrangements.
  4. Seven percent of community college students and 6% of 4-year college students did not know where they would sleep for at least one night during the past year.
  5. Twenty-two percent of community college students and 16% of 4-year college students were both food and housing insecure.

Housing insecurity can lead to food insecurity:

  • when housing costs increase,
  • students have less money to spend on food or they may move to less expensive neighborhoods with fewer available food options.
  • Female, non-heterosexual, black, Hispanic, and Native American students were more likely to experience food or housing insecurity than male, heterosexual, and white students.

The report recommends that students become advocates for changing policy. A national, student led organization, Young Invincibles, is examining how SNAP benefits are under-utilized by students. Students are showing leadership by testifying at the state and federal level and calling for changes that will address food insecurity.

Still Hungry and Homeless in College

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