Many Public College Students in Massachusetts Go Hungry While Trying to Earn Degrees

"Nearly half of Massachusetts’ community college students and a third in the state colleges and universities cannot afford consistent access to food and housing, according to a new study that found an alarming number of students unable to meet basic needs as they pursue their degrees," The Boston Globe reports. 

"In a state that prides itself on its world-renowned private universities, the survey showed that students in the public higher education system struggle to pay for food and housing in ways that go well beyond the stereotypical image of students scraping by on ramen noodles in apartments crowded with roommates.

Among the state’s community college students, 13 percent reported that they were homeless in the past year, with most of those saying they did not know where they were going to sleep, even for one night, or had been thrown out of their home.

Fifteen percent said they had lost weight because they didn’t have enough food; 25 percent said they had been hungry but didn’t eat because they didn’t have enough money; and 34 percent said they worried whether their food would run out before they got money to buy more.

At the state’s public four-year colleges and universities, 10 percent reported being homeless in the past year. Twenty percent said they had been hungry but didn’t eat because they didn’t have enough money. And 28 percent said the food they bought didn’t last and they didn’t have enough money to buy more.

The stresses could threaten the students’ ability to graduate because students who reported not having adequate access to food and housing were more likely to miss class and get lower grades, according to the survey, and twice as likely to report moderate to severe depression than their classmates who were well-fed and securely housed.

'We’re talking about people who are missing meals and losing weight and, in some cases, even going a day or even more than a day in the last month without eating anything,' said Sara Goldrick-Rab , a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which conducted the online survey of 8,300 students at 23 of the state’s 28 public colleges. 'It’s not the standard, 'I’m just scrimping.''

Despite Massachusetts’ high costs, the rates of housing and food insecurity and homelessness were roughly equivalent to those in national surveys. The problem might be worse here, state education officials, but Massachusetts has a more generous safety net than other states. Almost all of the state colleges and universities, for example, operate their own food pantries or have partnerships with community food banks."

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Publication Date: 5/16/2018

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