College Students Are Going Homeless and Hungry -- And Corporate America Is Trying to Exploit Them
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"Though young adults represent only 13.4 percent of the workforce," Edwards and Fernandez wrote, "they now account for 26.4 percent of unemployed workers." The unemployment rate for young Black workers stands at 32.5 percent and 24.2 percent for Latinos. Unemployment for teenage workers--aged 16 to 19--stands at more than 50 percent.
This high level of youth unemployment has a major impact on college students, as so many students must also work in order to make ends meet. In 2008, 45 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in high school or college as well as employed (or looking for work).
With students and their family members losing jobs as tuition increases escalate and social services are cut, more and more students will fall through the tattered social safety net.
Moreover, since the 2008 recession, hunger and homelessness has mushroomed among all age groups. Late last year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported up to 30 and 40 percent increases in homelessness in several U.S. cities.
One in eight Americans now relies on food donations from the relief charity Feeding America--an increase of 1 million people each week in 2010 over 2006, and a 50 percent increase in the number of children. Similarly, one in eight people in the U.S. rely on food stamps for their daily bread.
Times were already tough before the recession. But before 2008, family members and friends could take up more of the slack. If the parent of a student lost their job, the student could drop out of school for a while and work in order to help the family. Conversely, if students found themselves in trouble, loans and help from family could keep things going until graduation. The breadth of the crisis is sabotaging this privatized welfare system.
To make matters worse, Corporate America is looking for even more ways to take advantage. Business Week has reported an increase in for-profit "educational" outfits--such as the University of Phoenix and Chancellor University--targeting homeless people to fleece them of financial aid money, often leaving them with a mountain of defaulted student loan debt.
These predatory "colleges" are big business. One of Cleveland-based Chancellor University's major investors is "Neutron Jack" Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who got his nickname by firing some 100,000 GE workers. Goldman Sachs owns 38 percent of the for-profit Education Management Corporation in Pittsburgh.
Chancellor and Phoenix have sent recruiters into homeless shelters to sign people up for classes, regardless of their ability to pay or even attend school. After they get tuition money--paid for by student loans and financial aid--these companies can churn through yet more students, never worrying about pesky facts like graduation rates or what happens to their would-be students.
As Business Week notes, this type of predatory "education" isn't new. In past recessions, there was a proliferation of for-profit "trade schools"--which more often than not failed to provide any real training for unemployed blue-collar workers.
"In the Cleveland shelters, you can still find people with trade school debts from 20 years ago," Business Week wrote. "Those who don't repay their student loans [today] may forfeit their chances for public housing and are also ineligible for deferral financial aid to return to college."
As Ardetra Jones, from the Tacoma Rescue Mission told Business Week, "If the homeless have a bad student loan, they can't find a place to live, they can't go back to school. And in this economy there's not a lot of work. That leaves a person with no options."
On the one hand, college students are being driven into homelessness and hunger. On the other, the homeless and hungry are being preyed upon by for-profit "educational" vultures. George Clinton best summed up this sort of thing when he coined the phrase "America eats its young."