Nearly Half of U.S. College Students Don’t Get Enough To Eat

Nearly Half of U.S. College Students Don’t Get Enough To Eat

August 16, 2019 1 By Stanley Isaacs


A SHOCKING STATISTIC. NEARLY 50% OF COLLEGE STUDENTS
IN THE U.S. ARE GOING HUNGRY,
EVEN AT ELITE UNIVERSITIES. SINCE THE RECESSION IN 2008,
UNIVERSITIES HAVE SEEN THEIR
REVENUES DECLINE. OVERALL STATE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
REMAINS $9 BILLION BELOW ITS
PRERECESSION LEVELS. IN RESPONSE, UNIVERSITIES HAVE
BEEN RAISING TUITION BY AN
AVERAGE OF 35%. SOME STATES EVEN INCREASED
TUITION BY 60%. EVEN IF A STUDENT CAN AFFORD THE
PRICE OF TUITION, MANY STRUGGLE
TO PAY OTHER COSTS, INCLUDING
FOOD. SARA GOLDRICK-RAB IS A PROFESSOR
OF HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY AT
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY IN
PHILADELPHIA. SHE’S ALSO THE AUTHOR OF PAYING
THE PRICE: COLLEGE COSTS,
FINANCIAL AID, AND THE BETRAYAL
OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. SO NICE TO HAVE YOU WITH US. WHAT DOES A STUDENT LOOK LIKE? SARA: WELL IT’S THERE’S A
VARIETY OF STUDENTS WHO ARE
GOING THROUGH THIS. SOME OF THESE STUDENTS CAME UP
IN HOUSEHOLDS THAT DIDN’T HAVE
A LOT OF MONEY. EVEN WHEN THESE
STUDENTS WERE LITTLE. SOLEDAD: SO POOR STUDENTS GOING
OUT TO COLLEGE STILL POOR. SARA: OTHER STUDENTS ARE FACING
THIS PROBLEM FOR THE FIRST TIME. THEIR FAMILIES ARE MIDDLE CLASS. THEY MIGHT HAVE SAVED SOME
MONEY. BUT A YEAR OR TWO INTO COLLEGE,
SAVINGS ARE EXHAUSTED, AND
STUDENTS FIND THEMSELVES SHORT. AND SO FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME
IN THEI LIVES THEY’RE
EXPERIENCING THE CONDITIONS OF
POVERTY. SOLEDAD: A LOT OF PEOPLE WHEN
THEY THINK OF COLLEGE STUDENTS
THINK THEY ARE EATING ON A
GENEROUS MEAL PLAN, EVEN
OVEREATING. WE TALK ABOUT THE FRESHMAN 15. AND WASTING FOOD ALL THE TIME. IS THAT NOT THE REALITY OF A
COLLEGE STUDENT TODAY? SARA: IT ISN’T, ALTHOUGH PEOPLE
CONTINUE TO HAVE THAT IMAGE. WE SAY COLLEGE AND PEOPLE THINK
HARVARD. THAT IS REALLY NOT TRUE. ONLY 13% OF AMERICAN
UNDERGRADUATES LIVE ON A COLLEGE
CAMPUS. MANY OF THEM LIVE AT HOME. THEY EVEN HELP PAY THE BILLS AT
HOME. IT IS NOT LIKE MOM AND DAD ARE
GIVING THEM AN ALLOWANCE. MANY OF THEM ARE LIVING WITH
CHILDREN. THEY ARE FINDING IT VERY HARD TO
MAKE ENDS MEET. SOLEDAD: SO THE PROFILE OF A
COLLEGE STUDENT HAS CHANGED. SARA: IT HAS ABSOLUTELY CHANGED. FRANKLY FOR THE BETTER. WE KNOW THAT GOING TO COLLEGE
CAN HELP ENSURE ECONOMIC
SUCCESS, SO MORE PEOPLE ARE
GOING. SOME ARE REALLY GETTING INTO
TROUBLE. SOLEDAD: FOOD PANTRIES ARE
OPENING ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES. IS THAT THE ANSWER, TO HAND OUT
FREE FOOD TO BOLSTER THOSE
STUDENTS? SARA: I MEAN THE TRUTH IS THAT
WE CAN’T FOOD PANTRY OUR WAY OUT
OF THIS PROBLEM. HOWEVER THE COLLEGE AND
UNIVERSITY FOOD BANK ALLIANCE
STARTED ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO. IT
HAD MAYBE A DOZEN MEMBERS AND
NOW IT HAS MORE THAN 700. AND THE REASON THAT THAT IS A
GOOD THING IS IT MEANS THAT
THERE ARE AT LEAST 700 COLLEGES
AND UNIVERSITIES WHO ARE DOING
SOMETHING. SOLEDAD: SO THEN WHAT’S THE
SOLUTION? IS IT SAYING, YOU HAVE TO LOWER
TUITION, OR THERE HAS TO BE A
LINE FOR FOOD? IF YOU ARE GOING TO GIVE SOMEONE
NAMED, YOU HAVE TO INCREASE IT
SO YOU ARE PAYING FOR FOOD AS
WELL — WHAT DO THE SOLUTIONS
LOOK LIKE? SARA: THE THING IS THAT THAT
FOOD IS ALREADY IN THE BUDGET
THAT STUDENTS COULD IN THEORY
GET FINANCIAL AID FOR. THE PROBLEM IS THAT FINANCIAL
AID DOESN’T KEEP UP WITH THOSE
COSTS. SOLEDAD: DO YOU THINK FIVE YEARS
FROM NOW YOU AND I WILL BE
SITTING HERE HAVING THIS EXACT
SAME CONVERSATION, MAYBE THERE
WILL BE ANOTHER 200 FOOD
PANTRIES, OR DO YOU THINK THERE IS MOTION IN FIXING THIS
PROBLEM? SARA: I THINK THERE IS MOTION. I’M SOMEBODY WHO YOU KNOW REALLY
CRITICIZES A LACK OF MOMENTUM
WHEN THERE REALLY ISN’T ONE. DO I THINK THAT WE WILL
ELIMINATE ALL FOOD INSECURITY
AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS IN FIVE
YEARS? ABSOLUTELY NOT. BUT I THINK THAT WE COULD SEE IT
REDUCED BY AT LEAST A QUARTER
AND THAT WOULD BE A STEP IN