College students all across the country are facing food and housing insecurity. As the price of college has increased while the median household income has stayed stagnant, student’s families are not always able to support them through college(1). In fact, fewer than 1 in 4 students could be categorized as having parents who are able to pay all of their college expenses(2). Because of this, more and more students are not only having trouble paying for school but also affording basic necessities such as nutritious food and a safe, warm place to sleep. In a 2018 survey of Boise State students, 36% of respondents reported being food insecure in the past 30 days and 47% reported being housing insecure in the previous year(3). Students are taking out enormous student loans while often working several jobs just to get by. This prevents students from being able to dedicate themselves fully to their academics as they are focused on solely paying their bills and having enough to eat.
Food and housing insecurity are broad terms and they don’t look the same for everyone. To provide some clarity, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice outlines some circumstances where students would be considered food insecure:
- Worrying whether food would run out before having money to buy more
- Being unable to afford to eat balanced meals.
- The food that was purchased did not last and there wasn’t money to buy more
- Cutting the size of meals or skipping meals because there was not enough money for food
- Eating less than one felt they should because there was not enough money for food
- Being hungry but not eating because there was not enough money for food
- Losing weight because there was not enough money for food
- Not eating for a whole day because there was not enough money for food
Additionally, here are some circumstances where students would be considered housing insecure:
- Having a rent or mortgage increase that made it difficult to pay
- Being unable to pay full amount of rent or mortgage
- Being unable to pay full amount of utilities
- Having an account default or go into collections
- Moving in with people due to financial problems
- Living with others beyond the expected capacity of the housing
- Leaving a household because it felt unsafe
- Moving three or more times
- Receiving a summons to appear in housing court
More than ⅓ of college students in the United States lack enough to eat and stable housing(4). Unfortunately, these numbers reflect the amount of students facing food and housing insecurity at Boise State as well. Food and housing insecurity is one of the most significant drivers of students’ inability to complete and graduate college(2). These issues, therefore, must be recognized and prioritized in order to increase graduation rates and promote academic success for all students.