Establishing Support Programs at Michigan Universities to Combat Precarious Housing and Homelessness in College Students

To address growing housing instability in college students, institutions of higher education in the state of Michigan should develop assistance programs that provide academic support, mentoring services, and housing aid.

When data was last collected in 2013, 58,000 college students identified as homeless on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an increase of 75 percent over the previous 3 years, and experts estimate that the full number is significantly larger. While research hasn’t been conducted on a state level, homeless students have found it increasingly difficult to meet rising costs of tuition and room and board at public colleges in Michigan. To generate sufficient income, many students are forced to work multiple jobs, leading them to fall behind academically. Furthermore, full-time students are ineligible to live in residences that qualify for low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), which is the largest program for providing affordable housing in the United States today. Section 8 housing, which students can qualify for, labels grant aid for educational expenses as income, often forcing students to decline it in favor of loans so as to maintain eligibility.

After cases of homelessness emerged at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and Wayne State University last year, EMU’s Mentorship Access Guidance in College (MAGIC) program received $50,000 in donations and media coverage of the issue surged. However, across the country and in Michigan in particular, university support programs are still understaffed and underfunded or don’t exist at all. Many rely completely on private donations, as is the case with both Wayne State and EMU.

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