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Studying While Hungry, Homeless: Educators Float Solutions

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As many as 1 in 10 current or recent college students face homelessness as they struggle to pay student debt and living expenses, research shows. (andrew_t8/Pixabay)
As many as 1 in 10 current or recent college students face homelessness as they struggle to pay student debt and living expenses, research shows. (andrew_t8/Pixabay)
 By Linda Barr/Chris Thomas, Contact
May 14, 2018

BOSTON – Studying while hungry – many college students struggle to get enough to eat because they lack money to buy food.

At Worcester State University on Friday, educators and policymakers floated solutions at the Voices of Hunger conference.

Research from Temple University found about a third of university students and almost half (40 to 50 percent) of community college students don't have regular access to enough food or a safe place to sleep.

Interviewed at the conference, lead researcher Sara Goldrick-Rab said instead of profiting off of students, colleges could drive down the price of food and offer students meal vouchers if they can't afford to eat in the cafeteria.

"So, thinking about the college cafeteria as a place to support college retention, providing grocery scholarships so that students can afford to eat at home as well, and also, doing things like helping students connect to public benefits programs," she explained.

Another solution is to expand the National School Lunch Program, which serves children all over the country. Now it expires at age 18, but could be extended to cover struggling college students.

On the federal level, subsidized programs for veterans could be expanded to help community college students improve their employability in the workforce.

Goldrick-Rab's research found similar trends nationally and in New England.

Overall, students of color and LGBTQ students are more likely to face hunger and homelessness, but the crisis is widespread.

In addition to about half the students who struggle with hunger, she said they face another problem.

"We're also seeing a fair amount of students dealing with homelessness,” she stated. “It looks to be about 9 to 10 percent of university students and a higher number, somewhere between 12 to 14 percent of community college students."

One proposal in Massachusetts would subsidize student housing for homeless students and for those who can't afford to live in dorms.

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