The research team at University of Wisconsin, led by sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab, initiated a survey examining the community college experience. Published results have recently been updated to show one third of community college students go hungry and 14 percent are homeless. These newer results pull from a wider sample and found that the rates of hungry and homeless students at community colleges across the country are higher than previously thought. This time, 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states were surveyed and highlighted particular struggles with books, fees, housing, food, and in some cases childcare costs.
“Not only did we find challenges of food insecurity and housing insecurity at the less expensive community colleges, we found it at more expensive colleges,” says Sara Goldrick-Rab. “We found it at urban schools and rural schools. It’s all over the place.”
There seems to be no way to avoid it. As the cost of college grows, research shows that so does the number of hungry and homeless students at colleges and universities across the country. Researchers say some short term solutions include partnerships with local homeless shelters and food banks to better address students’ needs. It has also been suggested that state and federal governments work together to help college students find a place to live and something to eat so that they’re ready to learn and, eventually, graduate.
“Most people think, ‘Well, if you’re really poor, and you really don’t have money to eat, you can get food stamps,” she says. “What they don’t know is that for a college student, who doesn’t have children, to get food stamps requires that they work 20 hours a week. And the [issue is] that they’re working, and borrowing, and sometimes still falling so short that they’re going without having their basic needs met.” In the absence of more targeted grant or scholarship programs, more people are taking out student loans, and they are borrowing more. All that borrowing adds up to a total of $1.3 trillion, nearly triple what it was a decade ago.
As the cost of college grows, research shows that so does the number of hungry and homeless students at colleges and universities across the country.
New York is joining the “tuition-free public college” trend with their new budget to include this opportunity for families making up to $125,000 annually. New York will be among statewide programs like those in Rhode Island, Tennessee and Oregon. However, some critics argued that while the New York program is targeted toward the neediest students, it does so insufficiently. For one thing, tuition accounts for only half the cost of attendance. Less widely noted in the New York budget was an $8 million appropriation for what are called “open educational resources” for the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) systems.
Basically, these resources are copyright-free textbooks and materials, often in electronic formats that can be reproduced and shared at near-zero cost. Faculty can also modify existing resources to suit their needs and re-share the results. SUNY has been investing in this kind of open learning resource since 2012. David Wiley, a pioneer of open educational resources, is the founder of Lumen Learning, which is a vendor partner for SUNY in this project. Based on previous research and experience, Wiley says, “I expect to see New York students save more than twice [the $8 million] in the very first year of the funding and, simultaneously, expect an increase in course-completion rates where OER is adopted.”
The ticket out of poverty has decidedly been identified as earning a college diploma. But is that a reality for all?Economist Brad Hershbein, a nonresident fellow of the Brookings Institute, provided a more sobering look at the relationship between one’s achieved education level and lifetime earnings. Pulling data from Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Hersbein and his colleagues found that the payoff for a college degree is much less for those who grew up poor than for those who did not.
- Nearly all — 96 percent — say it is somewhat or very important for adults in this country to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school.
- Most — 93 percent — say that it will be just as important or more important in the future to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school in order to get a good job.
- Fewer than one in five — 19 percent — are confident that having only a high school diploma can lead to a good job.
Most people think, ‘Well, if you’re really poor, and you really don’t have money to eat, you can get food stamps.’ What they don’t know is that for a college student, who doesn’t have children, to get food stamps requires that they work 20 hours a week. And the [issue is] that they’re working, and borrowing, and sometimes still falling so short that they’re going without having their basic needs met.
Working-class students are more likely to spend too much time studying instead of socializing and making connections. The message they hear while in high school and college is “be smart, work hard and get good grades.” But students from high-income households know that isn’t enough. Generally, students are bombarded with an array of competing opportunities during college, all with the promise that each will lead to a better job or higher earnings upon entering the “real world.” One such option is the double major, in which a student earns two bachelor degrees at once, sometimes in entirely different disciplines.
But will doing so lead to a higher-paying job? Is it worth the “lost” time that could have been spent in other activities such as internships or student government?
College graduates from poor families were found to earn 91 percent more over their careers than high school graduates from the same income group. But college graduates from upper-middle-class families earned 162 percent more over their careers than those with just a high school diploma. Researchers point to disparities in family resources during childhood and the colleges that low-income students attend. Children born to highly educated women receive more of their parents’ time and money than those born to the less well-educated women. They also point out that poor students are more likely to attend lower ranked colleges than rich students. The researchers explicitly assume that this means poor students are receiving lower quality education than their richer peers. The difficulty is that participation in structured extracurricular activities is a luxury that working-class students often cannot afford. Many working-class students are employed during the school year to help defray the costs of their college education. This puts them at a disadvantage in securing jobs after graduation. And that disadvantage too often leads to reduced lifetime earnings.
So for those of you about to head to college, should you go for a double major? Or should you advise it to your kids?
While double majors have been a popular way to balance a deep study of the humanities with traditional degrees in the sciences, basic tabulations suggest that the percent of workers with a double major has been roughly constant, or even decreasing, over the past six years. On the one hand, double-majoring can help students avoid becoming overly specialized, exposing them to new ways of thinking and communicating with others outside their primary area. On the other, it creates a trade-off with other educational opportunities.
Is college still worth it? In the most simplistic terms, yes. Still, many say the myriad of problems are invisible to the public.
For those currently in school or contemplating their career options, do keep in mind that going forward, Congress may eliminate the student debt forgiveness program. Imagine if one notice from the federal government could cause you to question your major life decisions. President Trump has talked about streamlining the many student loan repayment options currently available, a proposal that has bipartisan support. When Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos directly during the confirmation process whether she would uphold Public Service Loan Forgiveness, DeVos she said she “look[ed] forward to discussing” it.