Most College Students Struggling With Food Or Housing During The Pandemic, Report Says

June 18, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
(Photo by Dan McCue)

Roughly three in five college students in America are struggling to meet basic living needs like food and housing during the coronavirus crisis, according to a new report by The Hope Center.

The study, which surveyed more than 38,000 students across 28 states, found that 58% of respondents had difficulties accessing food or paying for rent during the pandemic, with some students also reporting being homeless.

Overall, 44% of students at two-year institutions and 38% of students at four-year institutions experienced food insecurity over the last 30 days, the study found.

The study used a food security scale from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that looks at issues ranging from hunger caused by financial insecurity to problems accessing nutritional meals. 

Among two-year students, 25% said they went hungry because they ran out of money, while 40% said the food they bought didn’t last and they didn’t have enough money to purchase more.

When it comes to housing, the report found that paying for rent was the most common challenge for students during the pandemic. Roughly 18% of students said they “do not feel confident” about their ability to pay rent in the next month.

Also concerning was that more than 4,000 students said they were attending college while homeless, representing 15% of four-year students and 11% of two-year students.

Among those who were homeless, the vast majority reported couch surfing or temporarily staying with a friend or relative, but some students said they were sleeping in shelters, motels, on the streets, and in cars.

Students of colors were significantly more likely to experience housing and food insecurity, with 71% of African American students and 65% of Hispanic students affected, compared to just half of White students. Off campus students were also more affected compared to students living in college dorms.

Moreover, with the nationwide unemployment rates at a record high, many college students have lost their jobs or experienced wage losses due to salary cuts or reduced work hours. The Hope report found that 42% of four-year college students lost at least one job, while 28% got a reduction in hours or pay.

Overall, 36% of students who had jobs said they didn’t experience a negative change to their employment due to the coronavirus.

The study comes in the wake of new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education that advocates say could prevent some of the most vulnerable college students from receiving federal aid at a time when they need it the most.

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rule that prohibits colleges from granting CARES Act money to undocumented students and non-citizens, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided $14 billion for colleges affected by campus closures during the pandemic, requiring that at least half of that money go to students in the form of grants for food, housing, health care, and other needs like textbooks and technology.

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