1 in 3 college students don’t get enough to eat or have stable housing, study shows

Last week we noted that at a time when having a college degree is increasingly a must in the workplace, rising tuition at public colleges is making it tougher for many low-income Black and Latino students to obtain one without going into major debt.

Or going hungry, it seems. While it’s not new for working-class college students to try to save money by eating cheap foods—I certainly ate my share of ramen back in the day—readers might be alarmed to learn that more than a third of college students don’t get enough to eat or have stable housing, according to a new study described on Inside Higher Ed.

Researchers led by Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and founder of the Wisconsin Hope Lab, surveyed 43,000 students at 66 institutions—including four-year colleges, universities, and community colleges in 20 states and Washington, DC. They found that a whopping 36% of them skimp on food and forgo meals because they lack money, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, a reporter for the online higher-ed publication.

A similar share of university students said they were behind on rent and utilities or even homeless, the researchers found, noting that those numbers were even higher (42 and 46% respectively) at community colleges, the article observes. While those numbers are sobering, the researchers were quick to add that their random sample accounts for roughly 7% of the 600,000 students at the institutions, so it’s not necessarily representative of schools nationwide.

Still, their findings jibe with those of other recent studies by researchers at California State University and the University of California at Berkeley’s Basic Needs Security Work Group, which found that about 42% of students at campuses across the state were struggling to get enough to eat, an NPR article notes.

What’s more, in all three studies, Black and Latino students had significantly higher rates of food insecurity than their White peers. For example, Goldrick-Rab and her team found that at community colleges, 47% of Latino students and 54% of Black students reported going hungry vs. 37% of White students, Bauer-Wolf writes. At four-year colleges, the rates were 42% for Hispanic students and 47% for Black students compared to 30% for White students, he adds.

That’s undoubtedly hurting their academic performance and graduation rates, Goldrick-Rab told NPR’s Vanessa Romo. She also went on to note that while the struggle to cover basic needs is most acute for students from low-income families, the problem seems to be spreading to middle-class college students, too.

If tuition keeps climbing, and funding for higher education and student aid keep falling, the share of starving and homeless students will only increase.

The good news is some leaders and policymakers are taking steps to address the issue, Bauer-Wolf writes: Some are launching campus food pantries and/or making eligible students aware of resources like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Unfortunately, the Trump administration and its GOP allies seem intent on making matters worse. They’re planning to impose stricter work requirements and slash benefits for hard-working recipients who sorely need them.

Learn more about the importance of SNAP here.

By Gabriela Montell, UnidosUS Communications Manager

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