Survey: Half of College Students Struggle to Find Food, Shelter

college students struggle food

A survey released Tuesday revealed that about half of college and university students are having trouble putting food on the table and finding a place to live.

The #RealCollege survey took the input of 86,000 students at 123 colleges and universities in 24 states, reports the Cap Times. It is a continuation of Sarah Golrick-Rab’s work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which she left in 2016. She is now the director of Temple University’s Hope Center.

“This report is the latest to suggest a widespread basic needs security crisis diminishing the college completions prospects of millions of students,” Goldrick-Rab said. “Despite sizable evidence of need, students are still not receiving adequate government support.”

The report found that 45% of students reported experiencing food insecurity within the past year. Their fears ranged from not being able to afford food to skipping meals for a day to save money. Nearly half of the students also said they couldn’t afford a balanced meal.

The survey also found that 56% of students experienced housing insecurity, with 30% struggling with rent increases and 3% being summoned to housing court due to lack of payment.

Nineteen percent said they were forced to default and 4% have moved three or more times to find affordable housing.

Devastatingly, 17% of the students reported being homeless in the past year.

The effects of an unstable shelter or diet can have long-term, profound impacts on a student’s ability to succeed, the report said.

“Housing insecurity and homelessness have a particularly strong, statistically significant relationship with college completion rates, persistence and credit attainment,” the report said. “Researchers also associate basic needs insecurity with self-reports of poor health, symptoms of depression and higher perceived stress.”

The survey also found that minority groups, such as LGBTQ or women, are struggling more with basic needs than white males. Those attending two-year colleges as opposed to four-year institutions are also worse-off.

It was also found that the vast majority of students don’t take advantage of the available public assistance in these areas.

Only one-fifth of the food-insecure students received food stamps and only 7% of students who had been homeless at some point received housing assistance.

The report’s authors recommend the following for colleges and universities:

  • Appoint a Director of Student Wellness and Basic Needs
  • Engage community organizations and private sector in proactive, rather than reactive, support
  • Develop and expand an emergency aid program

“Isolating basic needs into a single office, without broad campus support for a ‘culture of caring,’ limits efficacy,” the report said.

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