By Leighah Beausoleil
When I enrolled in college, I thought I would finally get the stability I’ve been chasing my whole life.
I thought I had finally earned four years in one school with the promise of housing security as long as I paid my tuition and room and board bills.
When I first began looking at colleges in high school, I went to my guidance counselor with some community college options because I figured that would be the most affordable approach to higher education given my lack of financial resources and assistance.
However, my counselor told me, “No.”
He did not think I should split up my four-year college experience like that.
I needed the stability.
For context, when I first met my counselor, I had just transferred to Bartlett High School in Webster.
The fourteenth transfer of my educational career.
He was shocked at how well I still managed to do in school and told me I would have done much better if I had only been given the chance to stay in one place.
Therefore, he did not want to see me split up my higher education experience.
He told me not to worry about the cost. I would be granted the necessary financial aid.
So, I applied to schools in the New England region, both public and private, looking for the best way to pursue a career in community journalism.
When the acceptance letters came rolling in accompanied by financial aid packages, my decision was clear.
I was going to Framingham State.
This decision felt good.
This decision felt right.
I moved into my very first dorm in the fall of 2019. I was making friends, getting involved, and working hard.
Come my sophomore year, the world was in the middle of a global pandemic and I found out my grandparents, whom I lived with at the time, were planning to move to South Carolina.
This meant I had nowhere to live unless I transferred to a college down South.
I did not have anyone else to turn to at the time.
I made it through winter break living on campus despite there being no dining options.
However, I knew when the spring semester was over and I had paid my bills and saved enough for a driver's ed program, I would not be able to afford to stay at Framingham State for the whole summer.
Knowing you have nowhere to go and nothing you can do about it is hard.
I was scared.
If I went down South for the summer, I would have to leave my job, I wouldn’t be able to obtain my license, and the money I would have needed to pay for the fall semester would have been put toward travel expenses.
Would I have to give up all the progress I had made at this University - the jobs, the experience, the leadership positions?
Would I even be able to afford a school down South with the cost of out-of-state tuition?
This is when my counselor at the Counseling Center suggested I look into resources available on campus for students in my situation.
I got in touch with the Dean of Students Office and set up a meeting with the person in charge of Student Support & Advocacy at the time. They were very busy, so we could only meet for 15 minutes over a Zoom call.
Finally - a way to address this situation!
Unfortunately, this meeting was not helpful at all.
I was expected to explain everything about my situation in this limited window of time - information that took me months to finally open up about at the Counseling Center.
Then, I was told other students had experienced worse situations, and I should use the last of my money on an apartment.
I had saved $800 for driver’s ed.
What landlord was going to give me an apartment for $800?
That's not even a month's rent in most places.
Their only other advice was to get another job and work 60 hours a week, which was not an option for me at the time, especially given the fact I didn’t even have a car.
Thankfully, I was able to sort everything out myself and it’s lucky that I did, because it seemed as if the University wanted to wait until I was out on the street before deciding to make any moves.
To this day, I wonder why the University did not care enough to help me.
The administration claims the University is student focused, but clearly, that is not always the case.
I at least knew of the options available on campus for those who are facing housing insecurity, but unfortunately, these did not help me.
Why are they even there, then?
There is so much the University can do for students facing a situation like mine two years ago.
The Dean of Students Office needs to spend more time meeting with and listening to students in crisis. In addition, these meetings need to feel safe and comfortable for students to effectively discuss and address their housing insecurity.
There should be emergency housing options. It wouldn’t be an additional cost given students already live here year round.
It could be a program in which students can even work at the University such as how resident assistants and orientation leaders are able to live on campus while working during the summer.
Students going through similar or worse situations to mine deserve the support the University claims to offer.
Change won’t help me now, but it can help them.