More data is needed to help homeless

A Minnesota Daily article on Wednesday showed that colleges and universities across the state are largely ill-equipped to deal with the growing issue of student homelessness.

It’s a problem that often sits in the shadows, but the Minnesota Office of Higher Education has estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of college students grapple with what is known as episodic homelessness.

The causes vary as to what leaves college students without a home. For some, it’s the loss of income or financial aid. For others, it’s a more complicated set of circumstances.

Regardless of the causes, the problem of homelessness is increasing across the board in Minnesota.

The state as a whole is making broad steps toward lessening and ending homelessness in Minnesota, including $33 million in legislative funding to boost programs that prevent homelessness and build affordable housing.

But to address homeless college students, there are few specific plans. The main hindrance to positive change is a lack of data. Without an idea of how many students are without a stable home, post-secondary institutions are either left guessing at the scope of the problem or being unaware of it altogether.

Preventing and ending homelessness is, of course, a massive undertaking that will take time and resources. But the first step in addressing this problem on college campuses is collecting data that isn’t currently available.

We believe that public colleges and universities should asking students about their recent and current housing situations so they can measure and properly address the issue of student homelessness.