In 2012, I started a fund at the university to provide compassionate assistance for students in need. I was moved to do so because one of my students presented at the student health center and was diagnosed with the early stages of starvation. What? Starving students? Suddenly, it became not just a slogan, but a real thing. This poor student had made some bad financial decisions, and over the past two weeks had only eaten one package of hot dogs. No one wants to subsidize bad decisions, but no one wants anyone to suffer.
The story of college student food insecurity has received more attention recently. According to some reports—including surveys taken on my own campus—30% of college students have experienced food insecurity over the last year. This means that they actually ran out of money for food, or had to ration their food in order to make it to the next paycheck.
With the disinvestment of public funding for state colleges, the tuition burden has shifted more to students and their families than in the past. When I went to college, the ratio of state to student funding was somewhere around 80% to 20%. Now it is closer to 40% to 60%. And in some states it is even more disproportionate. This is not a direct criticism of states, however. Challenges in budgets have been impacted by revenues, increased social services, and increased costs for prisons. (You can’t charge inmates more, but you can charge students and their families more.) In addition, there is a significant increase in college attendance—the impact of which is felt most keenly at the community college and state college level. At the same time, Federal programs to support students have expanded, along with the national debt and taxes.
I share the above not so much as a plea for sympathy for college students, but more so to underscore the different landscape.
So, having attended college in the 70’s, did I ever go hungry? Not really. I recall eating browned lettuce and being very frugal. One incident sticks in my mind, however. My roommates and I wanted to celebrate a birthday, so we decided we could splash out at Denny’s. I had only enough money for a salad. After finishing ¾’s of it, I came across a hair. Yuck! Well, I was still hungry, so I returned the salad and asked for another one. LOL. I recall regretting that I had blown a half week’s budget of food ($4) on a salad at Denny’s, but at least I got two! In a true food insecurity situation, I would simply have made a phone call to Mom to get immediate attention, complete with Mom and a load of groceries within 24 hours (or less!).
Fast forward to 2017, and students just like me experience these issues, but the safety net is not there, and they end up with true food insecurity. This is where the Student Emergency Fund can help. No one should have to ration a package of hot dogs or a couple ramen bricks.
Our 2017 goal has been to increase this fund to $50,000. It’s just a couple days away, and guess what? We are going to make it!
Many thanks to those who have donated. We are making a difference in the lives of students to help them achieve their degrees.
Want to get in on the giving to the Student Emergency Fund? Click here and designate the Student Emergency Fund. 🙂
My next campaign will be related to practical skills of “adulting”, a term now in vogue that encompasses some of the basic home-ec and parent-inspired lore that simply is not passed along much. Stay tuned.