21-year old David, who didn’t want to reveal his last name, is a junior at UCSD with a full class load, majoring in Computer Engineering. His classes include Calculus, Discrete Mathematics, Data Structures, and Scientific Debugging.
On the bustling campus at UCSD David doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd.
Like other students he spends hours in the library. But unlike others, when it's time to go home and go to bed David goes straight to his car and sleeps in the back seat bundled up underneath a blanket.
“I feel like I have to make this decision because in order to be fully independent, I have to finish school and get a job,” he said.
Like many students, David’s parents paid for his education, about $7,000 a semester, not including housing.
Then his father lost his job.
“He had to file for bankruptcy, so we haven't had money,” David said.
His mother, who paid for half of his education, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My mom, who is working as a pharmacist, actually had a mastectomy and she was out of work for six months last year, so it was very hard to come up with the money to pay for my tuition,” David said.
He tried to apply for financial aid, but didn't qualify.
“I was living on campus, my parents were several months behind on payments, and so I got evicted during finals week and that's when I knew I just had to accept it,” David said.
Rather than quit school, David borrowed money from his girlfriend and her family and chose to sleep in his car.
His pride, he says, still intact.
“I don't think this homeless situation is that bad because I'm at UCSD and it's a really good school to be studying at, and I think I've come far. So, no, I don't feel embarrassed at all,” David said.
But how does he manage?
Typically, David will wake up early in the morning and shower at a nearby 24-hour fitness center, where he's a member. He's back on campus by 8 a.m. and stays there all day.
“If I want to sleep by 12, I just wait until the library closes and I go to one of the bathrooms and I brush my teeth, floss,” David said.
Through it all he has kept a sense of humor and is genuinely grateful that he's able to pursue his education, despite the hardship.
“If there was a message I could tell people, it would probably be don't take your sink and bathroom for granted,” he said laughing.
David said he hopes to complete his education at UCSD and eventually earn his MBA at Harvard.
Administrators at USCD were not aware of David's story or specifics of his financial history but they say emergency loans are available to students who qualify and encourage all students to contact financial aid counselors to discuss options when faced with hardship.