By: Kirk Carapezza
Published: March 15, 2017
Update: New survey results out today show that the rates of hungry and homeless students at community colleges across the country are higher than previously thought.
The results, published by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, show that one third of community college students go hungry and 14 percent are homeless.
Those rates are up from 2015, when the same research team surveyed 4,000 community college students in 10 states, and found one fifth were without adequate nutrition. Thirteen percent were homeless.
Today’s results come from a much wider survey sample, more than 33,000 students, at 70 community colleges in 24 states.
“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 sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab, who led the research team.
“We found it at urban schools and rural schools. It’s all over the place,” she adds.
Researchers say — short of longer term solutions — colleges should partner with local homeless shelters and food banks to better address students’ needs.
Goldrick-Rab says rates of hunger and homelessness are higher this time, in part, because her team surveyed earlier in the term before the most vulnerable students dropped out.
There’s 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.
Still, many say the problem is invisible to the public.
“It’s invisible even to me and I’m looking,” says Wick Sloan. He came to Bunker Hill Community College in Boston more than a decade ago to teach English full time. He says it felt like he quickly became a part-time social worker, too.
“When I first got here, I was always told that we should never miss a chance to give students food,” he says. “I foolishly thought at the time they meant Doritos and cookies. It’s protein that they’re after. It’s crazy.”
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