Exploring the lived experiences of homeless college students:
Blackburn, India Lucretia
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Homeless students who attend college often find it difficult to persist to graduation. The purpose of this phenomenological research study was to explore the phenomenon of college students who experienced homelessness and illustrate the essence of homeless college students’ experiences by eliciting and examining the factors that contribute to homeless college students’ persistence to graduation. Seven formerly homeless college student alumni participated by providing their description of the factors that supported their persistence to graduation. This study found five themes related to how the participants experienced homelessness while pursuing an education, and how the institutional environment contributed to their ability to persist in college. The themes included: the institutional obligation to homeless college students; the campus environment; emotional support; the strengths of homeless college students; and the needs of homeless college students. Using these themes as a guide, the study identified recommendations to support homeless college students’ persistence and academic success. The recommendations included providing greater institutional support, the importance of identifying an institutional agent, making financial resources available, and extending the hours for campus offices and services. It was recommended that future studies explore identified barriers to persistence for homeless college students, along with their tenacity, financial literacy, fear of disclosure, use of first person language to describe this population and graduation rates. This study contributes to much needed literature on the homeless college student.