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College “Opportunities” For The Homeless

HomelessShelterThe task of recruiting students is certainly an onerous job at many universities and colleges. Competition is fierce as everyone is vying for the best and brightest students. Different marketing/recruitment plans and objectives are put into place every academic year all across the country and the most creative or “outside of the box” approach garners the greatest return.

Having said this, I must say that I was recently amazed to learn of a new recruitment initiative that is straying from the best and brightest students and looking more for the most poverty stricken, unemployed, and homeless students that federal financial aid dollars can buy. I know it sounds a little crazy but apparently recruiters from the for-profit college industry are canvasing the nation and trying to set up appointments with homeless shelters to provide presentations that entice their residents to enroll in college courses. Bloomberg News recently released an article on this and cite the University of Phoenix and Drake College of Business to be leading the pack in this new initiative.

When I first heard about this approach to increasing enrollment numbers, my “college access for all” side came out and I was glad to see someone reaching out to the homeless and attempting to give them a new lease on life through education. However, the more I look at it (recruiting homeless people as students), I begin to wonder if the best interest of the student is really the motivating force or is it the access to federal financial aid dollars by the for-profit colleges that is driving this initiative.

My guess is that these homeless students have very little access to resources that are going to help them succeed. Given that the majority of the University of Phoenix’s students access their courses online, I am assuming that the necessity for technology is going to be an immediate hurdle or challenge for them to do well in their courses. I just can’t imagine many homeless people having a computer or consistent internet access outside of the 30 minutes a day allotted to them by a local public library.

My next concern (which falls more in line with the purpose of this site) is the financial aspect of this “opportunity”. The good news is that nearly all of these homeless students are sure to be eligible for every grant program (state and federal) known to mankind. However, who is going to be the voice of guidance when they are encouraged to take out federal direct loans or (gasp) even private loans to subsidize their educational costs? Also, what happens if they only make it through one or two semesters and then drop out and are stuck with this additional loan debt that can almost never be absorbed through bankruptcy.

My hope is that these for-profit schools are approaching this new pool of potential students with good intentions and that they are providing them with all the resources (and then some) that will help them to succeed with their educational endeavors. However, the realist in me leads me to think otherwise.

So.. the inspirational good news of the day related to college affordability.. If a homeless person can overcome their obstacles and achieve their college goals, it leaves hope for the rest of us (with homes) that we also can make our college dreams a reality.

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One Response to “College “Opportunities” For The Homeless”

  1. Randy says:

    You raise important points and the schools doing this recruiting should respond.

    I wonder if the schools doing this recruiting are funneling those federal, state, and loan dollars into the support necessary for these students to succeed. My (somewhat cynical) opinion is that they are not going to do so and, instead, will pocket those dollars for the one or two semesters the students attend before being tossed aside.