The Horatio Alger Association helps students cope with rising university housing costs
But as Sophia Manera, soon to be a sophomore at Aurora University outside Chicago, prepared to move into her first apartment this week — the first space she could call her own, the first place she was setting the rules – she realized her life hadn’t prepared her for the domestic basics yet.
“I grew up so unstable. We lived out of the car, in a motel, or in random houses,” she said. everyday life like putting up shower curtains. This is annoying. »
Surviving inflation one plasma donation at a time
But she had also learned how much a stable space of her own was an essential ingredient for academic success.
“You can’t focus on your studies when you’re in school because you worry about where you’re going to sleep at night and where you’re going to find food,” she said.
Manera, like thousands of other students across the country, has secured support from the Horatio Alger Association, an Alexandria-based nonprofit that provides $17 million in scholarships each year to students from backgrounds difficult. It has distributed $245 million to students altogether since 1984.
But the social and economic fallout from the pandemic has placed new demands on philanthropy. Horatio Alger began expanding the reach of his support to help students with basic needs such as housing. The new guidance highlights the growing difficulties many disadvantaged students face in completing higher education as housing costs rise.
“During the pandemic, many of them had no accommodation because the school was closed,” said David Sokol, president emeritus of Horatio Alger.
In response, members of the association pooled an emergency fund for rapid aid for scholars. Since March, this fund has distributed more than $200,000 to 400 students already supported by the association.
“Maybe it’s just a month’s rent. It might just be a computer charger they need, but it was just for these people when they called, no approval needed,” Sokol said.
The new landlord was going to almost double the rent. These elderly people in Maryland decided to fight back.
Since 2015, the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice has surveyed two- and four-year college and university students about their basic needs. The latest report, covering 2020, found that 3 in 5 of the nearly 200,000 students surveyed struggled with food, accommodation or bills.
The percentage of students facing housing problems has also increased. According to the report, 43% of four-year-olds experienced housing insecurity in 2020, up from 35% in 2019. In four- and two-year colleges, 14% of students said they had been homeless – the first time in the investigation. story that both groups faced the same level of homelessness.
Low-income students “survived high school by creating a cocoon of guidance counselors, teachers, or grandparents around them,” Sokol said. “All of a sudden when they go to college, that cocoon is gone.”
Even among students whose housing is covered by Horatio Alger and other scholarships, the prospect of stable housing is still important.
Ninah Jackson, 19, a student at Bucknell University from Prince George’s County, has not personally experienced housing displacement, but says the association’s financial support gives her protection against concerns that affect her. would take away from his school work in African studies and education.
“That way I don’t have to struggle with three jobs to pay for school,” she said. “Now maybe I just need to work one.”
Others, like 19-year-old Angel Vigil, faced a choice between work and class. A student at Arizona State University majoring in medical sciences, Vigil spent his childhood shuttling between family and foster homes in the United States and Mexico. A serious medical experience during this period pushes him to want to become a surgeon.
But Vigil’s need to pay for housing meant he had to clock in regularly for shifts behind the meat counter at a grocery store his freshman year.
Horatio Alger’s new emergency fund got him back on the books. “I didn’t have enough money on my own to do well in my studies,” he said.
Your money problem could be rooted in trauma
In high school, Manera found school gave her consistency after living on the streets and landing in foster care. She worked to catch up by taking more time with a reading specialist and listening to audiobooks to understand how words were pronounced.
But Aurora University, where she plans to double major in social work and criminal justice, requires an extra level of focus.
“You want to absorb as much as you can in class,” Manera said. “But if you’re constantly working, you don’t have time for it, or your mind is constantly wondering how you’re going to survive and meet your basic needs when you’re in class.”
His new apartment will provide him with this space.
“It’s a huge relief,” she said, “to know that I have a place to study, a place to be, and I know it won’t be absolute chaos.”