The Forgotten Crisis: Homelessness
on College Campuses
By Logan Blakeslee
Logan Blakeslee is the former VP of Student Affairs at SUNY Broome
While modern American universities concern themselves with affirmative action and “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” there remains a problem that has often gone overlooked by college administrators because of the uncomfortable questions that it raises. This problem will likely become more pronounced over time as the SUNY system, under Governor Kathy Hochul, seeks to raise tuition costs at strikingly high percentages.
As one can gather from the title, homelessness on college campuses is the problem. It remains unspoken because the general public perceives most college students as the academic elite, with rich parents and scholarships to alleviate any financial hardship. Likewise, no institution in America would ever admit that it’s so unaffordable that its own students cannot afford to live like a regular human being. This environment fosters a tragic silence which looms over higher education in this country.
According to the University of Southern California at Rossier (Brian Soika), approximately 14% of “students at two- and four-year institutions experience homelessness.” I was shocked when I discovered this. However, it made more sense the longer I was in college; tuition is always on the rise, but the real money is made in student housing. Dorms and apartments are both hard to find and increasingly out of reach price-wise for most college students. Food and transportation, not to mention books and school supplies, devour any remaining funds.
Students who suffer from this problem often have no choice but to sleep in their cars or practice “squatting” in different parts of a university campus, despite the risks. Some lack either of these options and have to try their luck on sidewalks or other dangerous areas. During my time as a leader in student government at SUNY Broome and SUNY Binghamton, I have met students who were in these precarious situations or had faced them in the past. Their stories were harrowing. I met one young woman who lived in her car for months and showered at a local gym, but she was strong and complained very little. To her, the degree was worth it.
She was not alone in her plight. Many of the other students I met while studying this topic I encountered through SUNY Broome’s Homeless Awareness Night, which takes place during the end of the Spring semester most years. It’s an occasion for raising awareness and donations for this forgotten demographic. Beyond that, student governments at many SUNY schools run their own pantry that helps students against hunger, and they do so free of charge. That being said, I believe that SUNY itself needs to do more to combat homelessness among college students. It’s not enough to chase away squatters and forbid overnight parking.
College administrators, who preach daily about their liberal virtues, really need to look inwards and decide if the bonus to their own paycheck is worth the cost in human suffering.