A recent study found that the high cost of college is causing many students to grow hungry due to a stretched budget.
A new survey revealed that 36 percent of college students don’t have enough to eat, and many students struggle to find a place to live. Furthermore, nearly one in 10 college students have missed an entire day of eating in the past month, Wisconsin HOPE Lab found. This was true for students attending two-year, four-year, public, and private colleges.
Researchers found that these problems often stem from high college costs as well as growing enrollment among low-income students. It’s easy to surmise that if students find it hard to pay for college, then they’re more than likely going to have trouble paying for food. And researchers found that the problem is often compounded by the fact that many colleges are unwilling to acknowledge the issue.
Though the college hunger problem is not a new issue, it does appear to be getting worse. Rising tuition prices are just a small part of “a systemic problem,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, who was the lead author of this study, told The Washington Post.
The survey looked at 43,000 students at 66 different college campuses. Researchers used standards from the Department of Agriculture to measure student hunger. Students that are classified as having “low food security” are individuals that are skipping meals or eating much smaller meals due to lack of resources.
The study found that 46 percent of community college students and 36 percent of university students struggle to find housing they can afford. Many don’t know where they will sleep on a day-to-day basis, causing them to resort to staying in shelters.
Measuring student hunger is difficult because many colleges are reluctant to admit it’s a problem, said Rachel Sumekh, chief executive of a California nonprofit. She said that finding these statistics are important because it “…helps us make the case to universities that they need to do something about this.”
Researchers say that this growing problem often affects low-income students, who are attending college at higher rates due to an increase in need-based scholarships and grants. But many students arrive at college only to find that their financial aid isn’t enough to cover their basic living expenses.
Some colleges are beginning to take steps to combat this problem. For instance, George Washington University opened a food pantry in 2016. Aside from the NY initiative to reduce tuition, a new provision in New York state will require CUNY and SUNY schools to offer food pantries or a similar alternative. And other schools are starting to change their dining plans to offer more affordable options and even distributing vouchers to students that need them.
However, many advocates argue that colleges still aren’t doing enough to help students. Many college officials either don’t understand the extent of the problem or simply don’t believe it is a real problem. For that reason, activist groups are doing what they can to bring awareness to this issue.
For students who are already struggling with this situation, the first thing to do is to reach out for help. They can also search for a local food banks in their area for help.
Students who are also looking for more financial assistance to attend school might consider searching for schools that offer the most in scholarships.