When Thanksgiving or Christmas break rolls around, college students are relieved to have one full week to relax, spend time with family, and stuff their faces with home-cooked meals. College breaks also mean many universities close down their dorms and dining halls due to the lack of traffic on campus, and for safety reasons.
But what if you have no home to go back to? What if you haven’t had a home-cooked meal in years because you’ve been bouncing between different family members? What if your parents can’t afford to fly you back home for the holidays? These are all issues that many college students face, an issue regarding homelessness, food shortage, and overall financial boundaries.
Everyone knows how much financial debt students are in nowadays, from tuition costs and the multiple loans required to cover it. But little is known about the personal struggles of homelessness and hunger when you rely on your university dorms or dining halls to supply you with food and shelter. In fact, 58,000 students identified as homeless on the 2013 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is a 75 percent increase over recent years.
There is a misconception that if you can afford to go to college, you should be able to afford all the other factors that go with it. But this is far from the truth, as “couch- surfing” and “living off ramen” is the brutal reality for college students who face too many financial burdens that leave them hungry and homeless.
The other misconception is if a child has parents with no college degree, then they won’t go on to pursue one themselves, and will not even consider going to college. And the sad truth is, colleges don’t account for the students paving their own path. This means students who have parents with no college degree are trying to pursue one of their own, a situation that colleges have not realistically adjusted to, leading to calls for a increasing the amount of aid a student can receive.
Although there are students facing homelessness and lack of food, colleges and outside communities are slowly making their way toward implementing solutions to these problems. Colleges have come to realize that students focus less when they are hungry, or when they are in search of the next place they are going to sleep, or where they could stay to do their homework.
As of 2017, almost all public and private universities have a food bank set up open to students who cannot afford to buy groceries or their own meals. These food banks are made up of donations from other students and faculty on campus who want to help their struggling counterparts. In addition, universities are developing programs to provide short-term housing for those who need it. For example, Tacoma Community College in Washington has a program with the Tacoma Housing Authority to provide rental assistance to homeless students and to even help them find a job. Some campuses are even advocating to keep their dorms and dining halls open so students still have a place to stay.
College kids focus less and struggle more if they do not have a stable and consistent residence and do not have enough food to feed their growing bodies. College is stressful enough with the debt and pressure to do well in classes and on exams, but finding a home and finding food is just another struggle many students go through, a struggle that many people fail to acknowledge — or may not even know exists in this day and age.