Association of Community College Trustees Announces New Report on Hungry, Homeless Community College Students

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New Report, New York Times Op-Ed Shine Light on Students Who are "Hungry to Learn"

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Too many of our students are going hungry to learn, and in too many cases, students have to choose between a stable lifestyle and attending classes.

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) today announced the release of a new research report created in partnership with the Healthy Minds Study, Single Stop, and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab that assesses food and housing insecurity among community college students. Authors Sara Goldrick-Rab, Katharine M. Broton, and Daniel Eisenberg surveyed more than 4,000 students at 10 community colleges in California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming about how today’s college prices affected them.

“This holiday season, we should remember that students of all ages throughout the United States are making great sacrifices to attend college,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Their tough choices should never come down to whether to attend class, nourish themselves, or pay their rent. Unfortunately, the Hungry to Learn report reveals that such choices are being made by more students than most of us ever would have thought.”

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Goldrick-Rab and Broton write that despite increased public scrutiny over rising tuition and fees, living expenses are actually “one of the most costly barriers that stand between today’s students and graduation.”

According to the report, nearly 80 percent of the total cost of a year in community college is not tuition, but books and supplies, transportation, health care and clothing, housing and food. Among the students surveyed:

  • Fifty-two percent indicated they were struggling with food insecurity, housing insecurity, or both.
  • One in five students went hungry while attending college.
  • Thirty-one percent of African American students and 23 percent of Latino students had very low levels of food security, compared with 19 percent of non-Hispanic white students.
  • One in eight was homeless at some time in his or her college career.
  • More than half (52%) of African American students experienced housing insecurity, with 18 percent experiencing homelessness, compared with 35 percent housing insecurity and 11 percent homelessness among non-Hispanic white students.

“The alarming statistics in our survey help explain why so few of our poorest neighborhoods are able to get ahead,” the co-authors argue. “High rates of food and housing insecurity among America’s undergraduates are a clear indication that the need to make college more affordable is even more urgent than rising student-debt figures convey. But the system is working against them. That has to change.”

Hungry to Learn shines a glaring spotlight on the real rates of food and housing insecurity among community college students and describes changes that community colleges and federal and state policymakers can implement to improve food and housing security so that students can persist in their studies through to the successful completion of a college degree. For example, complex SNAP (food stamps)-eligibility rules for college students, including those tied to work requirements, can reduce participation and increase administrative costs. Allowing students to use both financial aid and SNAP during their college experiences will likely help them complete degrees more often and more quickly. Simplifying the requirements, allowing college enrollment to count toward the work requirement, and using collaborative data sharing agreements to identify students who meet SNAP income eligibility thresholds will increase program efficacy and help students complete college and find gainful employment. Read the report for the full list of recommendations.

“Too many of our students are going hungry to learn, and in too many cases, students have to choose between a stable lifestyle and attending classes,” Brown said. “Now that we know how many students are Hungry to Learn, we have economic and moral obligations to do all we can to support them.”

About the Association of Community College Trustees
The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. For more information, go to http://www.acct.org. Follow ACCT on Twitter at twitter.com/CCTrustees.

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David Conner
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