Twenty-three percent of Hispanic or Latino community college students have very little security when it comes to their next meal, according to a study released this week by the Association of Community College Trustees measuring hunger and homelessness at 10 community colleges across the nation.
The researchers’ survey of more than 4,000 community college students — among them parents, students from low-income households and students with mental illness — revealed that one in five had gone hungry in the past 30 days because they couldn’t afford enough food.
Black and Latino students experienced hunger — what the report calls “food insecurity” — at higher rates than their white peers. According to the report, 22 percent of Hispanic or Latino students and 23 percent of black students — compared with 16 percent of white students — said they had low food security, defined by the study’s authors as ”reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.” Thirty-one percent of black students and 23 percent of Latinos had very low levels of food security, while the same was true for 19 percent of non-Hispanic white students.
First-generation college students were also more likely to face hunger than students whose parents had attended college.
Hungry students also tended to say they had experienced housing insecurity, including trouble paying their rent or even homelessness. Sixteen percent of Hispanic or Latino students said they had been homeless, compared to 18 percent of blacks and 11 percent of white and Asian respondents.
“More than 10.5 million students attend community colleges,” report authors Sara Goldrick-Rab and Katharine M. Broton write in a New York Times op-ed. ”But community college is not free. In order to enroll and focus on learning, students have to pay for books and supplies, transportation, health care and clothes, lodging and food, in addition to tuition and fees. After grants and scholarships are applied to reduce those costs, students…who are more likely to qualify for maximum support because their parents earn less than $30,000 a year, still face an average out-of-pocket price of more than $8,000. Even with student loans, they fall short.”
As The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, the study proposes several ways colleges can support students who are struggling with hunger and homelessness, including making them more aware of resources and assistance programs that are available, such as SNAP. Researchers also include 11 recommendations to make state and federal policies “more supportive and effective.”