College Has Gotten So Expensive, Some Students Can’t Afford to Eat

Schools across the state, from community colleges to major universities, are providing food pantries in order to keep students from going hungry.

By Alain StephensApril 20, 2016 11:02 am

Those who remember college days may recall eating ramen during study breaks, doing laundry at someone’s mom’s house, carpooling with that one friend who had a car. The stereotype of the impoverished student is an old one. But some universities are saying their students have been so hard hit by rising costs that they can’t even afford to eat.

Forget the jokes about poverty conditions for students. Things are so bad, some Texas universities have been spurred to open food pantries for students. Matthew Watkins, a reporter at the Texas Tribune who has covered this story, says two factors drive the need for these services.

“It’s a relatively new thing, most of the ones in Texas have opened in recent years,” Watkins says. “The combination of the rising costs of college and also a kind of a stepped-up effort by universities to get more lower-income students into school means that there’s just a higher number of students on campus that need this kind of help these days.”

Many schools have had to raise tuition this year, Watkins says, because of ongoing declines in state funding for higher education. Those price hikes are leaving some students in a tough financial position.

“On the other side, you don’t want to stop recruiting students from low-income families,” Watkins says. “You might recognize the students are coming in without the kind of ability to write home and say, ‘Mom, Dad, send money,’ like you hear about college students doing in pop culture.”

While these programs are stepping in to help ease the burden of food insecurity among students, colleges view these programs as a short-term fix while trying to address larger problems.

“Maybe certain points in the semester where a student doesn’t have much money, (they) may skip a couple of meals, and the schools don’t want the students to do that, they want them to stay healthy,” Watkins says. “You’re going to perform better in school when you’re eating healthy foods and maintaining healthy habits. But I’ve talked to some administrators who have talked about students who are homeless, who are couch surfing or sleeping in the student union or something like that, and they recognize that the food pantries help students like that, too. But they’re woking on trying to find more long-term, more significant solutions for students like that.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

This post was prepared for the web by Alexandra Hart.