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Homelessness Impact on College Outcomes Outlined In New Report


News Release
April 18, 2019

Contact: Sandy Connolly (651) 259-3902


St. Paul, MN -A first-of-its kind report from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) finds that students who experienced homelessness in high school are much less likely to enroll in, persist at and complete a college education than their peers who had secure housing.

“The Impact of Housing Insecurity on Educational Outcomes” report uses data compiled under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which tracks homelessness during K-12, something that is not tracked reliably in higher education. OHE research staff analyzed higher education outcomes for students who attended 9th grade between 2005 and 2011, comparing outcomes of students who experienced homelessness while in high school to outcome for their peers. During this timeframe, the report found that 11, 770 students experienced homelessness while in high school. Sixty-seven percent were students of color and nearly all were eligible for free and reduced price lunch programs.

“It is certainly not a surprise to learn that students who lack stable housing in high school are less successful in college, but for the first time this report helps us understand the magnitude of the problem,” said Commissioner Dennis Olson, Office of Higher Education. “As a state, we must do everything possible to not only end homelessness, but in the meantime, we must also provide the necessary resources and support to help homeless students be successful.”

According to the report, while in high school, homeless students:  

  • Are less likely to participate in rigorous courses in high school, including PSEO, Concurrent Enrollment and Advanced Placement
  • Score lower on high school proficiency tests and the ACT
  • Graduate from high school at significantly lower rates

These trends continue into college, where students who experienced homelessness in high school:

  • Enroll in college at much lower rates than housing-secure students
  • Enroll in college immediately after high school at lower rates than housing-secure students
  • Enroll in developmental education at higher rates
  • Fail to persist from one year of college to the next at higher rates
  • Completed college at lower rates.

The report also includes the top college destinations of housing-insecure students, primarily Minnesota State 2-year colleges, as well as the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minnesota State University Mankato and Augsburg University. Olson said he knows many of these colleges have efforts underway to prevent and combat homelessness on campus, and he commends their efforts.

“The colleges and universities of Minnesota State serve more low income students than all other higher education options in Minnesota combined, and have a number of initiatives in place to help all students, including low income students and students who are experiencing housing insecurity, achieve success,” said Paul Shepherd, System Director for Student Development and Success for Minnesota State. “Serving students struggling to secure basic needs is central to our commitment to reduce economic and racial disparities and meet Minnesota’s critical need for talent.”

The issue of housing insecurity, along with food insecurity, is among the critically important efforts we are actively working to address. There are numerous programs, services and initiatives for students to use,”’ said Maggie Towle, Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “Through a University-wide basic needs coalition, more than 30 campus units are involved in not only better understanding the needs of students facing these challenges, but in promoting use of current resources while considering new ones. We know that by helping students meet basic needs, they'll stay in school, be better able to learn and graduate on time, ready to make an impact on society."

"Our focus is on helping students fully access the college experience, which means committing resources to meeting students' basic needs," said Katie Bishop, Augsburg University chief student success officer. “Each year, we make up to 15 student housing rooms available at no cost to students who are housing unstable. Our food vendor, A’viands, provides an in-kind donation of meal plans. We also have an on-campus food pantry and resources to help students defray the cost of course materials, transportation, and food.”  

The Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness, of which Olson is a member, recently launched “Heading Home Together: Minnesota’s Statewide Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 2018-2020”. The plan outlines several principles for addressing homelessness in Minnesota, especially among youth up to age 24. These include:

  • Educate college students, staff and faculty about homelessness and expand efforts to identify homeless people
  • Increase resources for prevention and leverage potential housing options for college students
  • Coordinate and simplify access to funding to support responses to homelessness while in college

Olson also believes addressing housing insecurity for college students is key to meeting Minnesota’s educational attainment goal of 70% of all Minnesotans having a higher education credential by 2025.

“When you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep each night or bouncing from couch to couch, it’s pretty tough to focus on your studies,” said Olson. “Addressing homelessness among college students is one more way we can make progress on meeting our state’s attainment goal.”

The entire report can be found here

More information on the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness is available here

For more information, contact Sandy Connolly at 651-259-3902 or by email at

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