RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- You may not realize it, but there are thousands of homeless K-12 students in North Carolina's public schools -- and many of them go on to college. Now, for the first time, there is a single point of contact for homeless students at each of the 110 colleges and community colleges in the state.
According to federal government estimates, there are about 1.4 million homeless students in the U.S. The N.C. Homeless Education Program reports there were 25,392 homeless K-12 students in the state's public schools last year, a 50% increase since 2006.
A federal law requires all public school systems to provide educational support for "unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY)" who have separated from their parents for one reason or another. Many homeless high school students get outstanding help from their school counselors and their communities, are admitted to college and even receive special financial aid – but then are on their own.
"For students who are homeless or in transitional housing, enrolling in postsecondary institutions can be a daunting task," said Stephanie Cafaro, talent search counselor at West Charlotte High School. "Homeless students benefit from understanding their rights and the resources available to them. Creating points of contact is an important effort because these students need to feel connected and supported. For many students who have experienced homelessness, enrolling in higher education means seizing the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and build a better life."
"Single Points of Contact will provide a one-stop resource for students in need," said Stacy Davidson, counselor at East Wake School of Health Science in Wendell. "A well-identified and accessible starting point will allow students to seek assistance promptly and help remove barriers to education. "
After learning about the growing population of homeless students, Laura Misner, a regional representative for College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) in the western part of the state wanted to get involved. As she explained, "We realized there was nobody to follow up with homeless students after high school graduation. They probably don't have a mom and dad who can help them shop for books, school supplies and 'extras' needed for college. They will need a place to live in the summer if their college dorms close. On most college campuses, there is no one person designated to provide assistance. "
After discussing the issue with some of her contacts at western N.C. colleges, more than a dozen colleges and universities agreed to designate a staff member on campus to help support these youths as they enter college.
The idea of campus points of contact for homeless students then spread across the state with help from Robbie Schultz, Nicole Roach, and other staff members at the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority who also work with CFNC. With support from the National Center for Homeless Education on the campus of UNC-Greensboro, the N.C. Homeless Education Program, the N.C. Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and other groups, Schultz has compiled a single point of contact list to include each community college, junior college and four-year colleges and university across the state. To date, all 110 N.C. colleges and universities have designated a staff member to help homeless students.
"We have made the list of contacts widely available to high school counselors and have posted it on the CFNC.org website to make sure these homeless students get the support they need to be successful in college," said Schultz.
College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a free service of the State of North Carolina that helps students plan, apply, and pay for college. CFNC is a partnership of Pathways, the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, and College Foundation, Inc.
- Pathways, created by the N.C. General Assembly in 1999, is a state-wide initiative to increase the college-going rate of North Carolinians by providing: comprehensive college and career planning resources; electronic applications and transcripts accepted by all 110 North Carolina colleges and universities; and, information on student financial aid and college affordability. Pathways is administered by The University of North Carolina General Administration in collaboration with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the N.C. Community College System, and the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities.
- The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), established in 1965, is the State agency that promotes access to higher education by administering financial aid and savings programs, informing students and families about paying for college, teaching educators about financial aid administration, and advocating for resources to support students.
- College Foundation, Inc. (CFI), administers a large portfolio of education loans, several major grant and scholarship programs for students attending N.C. colleges and universities, and the tax-free "529" college savings program on behalf of the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority. CFI also delivers information to North Carolina students and families about paying for college and provides technology services for CFNC.org.
CFNC offers resources toll-free at 1-866-866-CFNC and at CFNC.org.
SOURCE College Foundation of North Carolina