The Rare, Homeless Student

The Washington Post has an interesting piece about homeless college students in DC:

Lots of college students have special tricks to help them get through these next few weeks of finals. Red Bull, coffee amped up with espresso shots, secret study spots . . .

Ronnell Wilson has learned that this is the time to be extra careful about his backpack. Right before midterms, he lost all of his class work when someone at the shelter swiped his backpack as he slept.

Miracle Lewis… knows that pulling an all-nighter in a room with two dozen women sleeping on their emergency beds is not something she can easily pull off, so she studies during the day.

Lewis and Wilson are both in their 20s, both college students and both homeless.

The Post piece, by Petula Dvorak, takes a look at how destitute students (she profiled students at Catholic University and the University of the District of Columbia) navigate attending college without a permanent address or a steady income.

The homeless college student story appears occasionally and tends to be anecdotal. This sort of thing is not terribly common. In part because a lifetime of poverty acts as a major damper toward college success, and in part because financial aid generally takes care of living expenses, stories about homelessness and higher education usually have to do with students helping the homeless or pretending to be homeless.

The story oddly treats the students and their struggles as “inspiring” rather than, say, frightening and reflective of something deeply wrong with the financial aid systems in American schools. Still it is a very interesting look at the basic expenses and choices low income students have to make. These matters—where to study, how to get home, where to eat—are things most students take for granted.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer