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Homeless U: How Students Study and Survive on the Streets

Brittany Jones is burrowed into her seat on a BART car, catching some sleep before the morning commuters arrive. As the car starts to fill with people, she finally pulls down her jacket, uncovering her face. The whoosh of the doors, the sweaty surge of denim and backpacks: This is her alarm clock.

Jones is 24, a student at Laney College in Oakland, and homeless.

To study and survive at the same time, she must answer the same questions over and over. Can she afford dinner tonight? Will she be able to sit next to the secret outlet in the BART car so she can charge her phone? Can she get a job that still allows her to go to class and keep her grades up? These are just some of the challenges Jones and other homeless college students face in California.

Like many undergraduates, homeless college students are young, ambitious and wracked by insecurities about their identities and futures. But their specific insecurity is chronic and exhausting: They live in cars, couch surf and sneak into campus buildings to spend the night. Unfortunately, these experiences are more common than many ever suspected.