All kinds of students at all kinds of schools are unable to make ends meet.
Policymakers wonder why the graduation rate isn’t higher — one huge reason is that at some point, getting your degree is less important than earning enough money to stay alive.
I ate rice every single day for the four years it took me to get an undergraduate degree. Sometimes other food too, but I was cheap.
I had Very Little Money, but at least I knew I could ask my parents for some, if I were willing to suck it up. I had a monthly food budget of $100, provided by my mama, as her contribution to my education. I paid for the rest of school myself.
One hundred dollars for one person’s food in the latter half of the 1990s wasn’t tons, but it was fine. Problem? I spent the money on other things instead. Like concert tickets. So when I say I spent my college days poor and hungry, it is with the acknowledgment that it was by choice (more or less).
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that US college costs are out-of-control. Tuition over the past 10 years keeps growing at a rate unlike anything seen before in the history of the universe. Seriously.
It depresses me that this is the real decision that has to be made: keep going to class with an eye on my future, or stop college to put food on the table.
No wonder then that a new, exciting trend is to have food pantries for college students. I talked to an AmeriCorps volunteer running one of these centers and she was matter-of-fact about the need — and how little is being done. Today’s college students may be young and single, living la vida loca. But more and more are what we call ‘nontraditional,’ meaning slightly older, employed full-time (or close to it), supporting a family, a veteran, etc.
Hunger for nontraditional students doesn’t mean surviving on ramen: It means they are not the only person in the household who's in need. That changes the picture a bit, doesn’t it? And because SNAP requires things like a permanent address, qualifying for assistance can be a challenge for college students, who may move once or twice a year.
This isn’t just an issue for community colleges or students of color. All kinds of students at all kinds of schools are unable to make ends meet. Policymakers wonder why the graduation rate isn’t higher — well, one huge reason is that at some point, getting your degree is less important than earning enough money to stay alive.
Enter the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) — bet you didn’t know it even existed! They are a great resource to help campuses build food security programs and to point students to local orgs that can help. If you’ve got a little extra money, they’d also be a great place to donate.
Know a college student? Send $10. Become the most popular person on the planet.
Talk about tuition when you are asked about political concerns. The biggest reason for price hikes? States slashing funds for higher education. It's all connected, folks!
Reach out to your local food bank and help them connect with area colleges to establish shared resources.
We shouldn’t have to do any of this, but this is the situation we’re in. If you believe in a better tomorrow, maybe we can all help a little right now.