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The Increased Cost of College & Its Impact on Student Basic Needs


Basic needs can be seen as the specific things we need in order to sustain our lives. When we think about basic needs we often just think about food, shelter, and clothing. However, in order to satisfy our basic needs we must also look at essential services such as access to safe drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, and education.

With the rising costs of university and college attendance, it has become difficult for students to attend tertiary institutions because they are not seen as “affordable” anymore. When students decide to attend college, it may become increasingly difficult for them to meet their other basic needs (1).

Why the Cost of College Has Increased

A college education can now be seen as the second-largest expense that every individual who attends these institutions will make in their entire life. The drastic and tremendous rise in cost is due to deep cuts in state funding. This means that public colleges need to make rather tough decisions. Public colleges and universities can either cut their campus budget, admit more students that require less financial aid, raise tuition, or a combination of these factors. In today’s world, students’ tuition makes up about half of the colleges’ revenue while the state and government usually provide the other half (2).

How College Costs Have Increased 

As of 2018, funding from the state to two-year and four-year colleges is more than $6.6 billion of what it was in the year 2008 (adjusted for inflation). The cost of attending these institutions also increases much faster than income increases, when considering the same time period (2).

One can suspect that in general, tuition rates will increase at about twice the general inflation rate per year. Tuition usually increases around 8% every year, which indicates that the cost of college almost doubles every nine years (3).

How Student Basic Needs Are Affected

Due to the fact that attending college is becoming more expensive, students are trying to save money in other ways. This usually leads to food insecurity as well as housing insecurity. Around 1 in every 3 college students in the U.S. lacks enough to eat as well as stable housing. This affects students’ ability to succeed academically. Food insecurity can look like students attending campus events only looking for food, reducing their food intake to make groceries last longer, skipping meals, purchasing less nutritious food, and deciding between buying textbooks or buying food. Housing insecurity can lead to students “couch surfing,” sleeping in their cars, or even being homeless. All these factors may cause anxiety and stress which can adversely affect mental health. 

More students will also seek out loans in order to cover some costs of college. However, an increased level of debt can leave certain students with a great disadvantage after graduating from college.

Tips to Save Money

  • Buy used textbooks rather than the much more expensive, new books
  • Owning a car can add a lot of costs due to parking fees, gas, maintenance, etc. One can walk, cycle or use public transport instead
  • Always carry your student ID with you as many businesses offer student discounts
  • Try to limit takeout meals and do your own cooking or meal prep to save time and money
  • Acquire information from your bank regarding specific accounts that are designed for students
  • Try to buy nonperishable food in bulk
  • Make use of free or less expensive campus amenities that are already available to you
  • Monitor your phone data usage with apps that can track data usage; use WIFI when possible as data can become a relatively expensive expenditure
  • Sign up for various reward programs
  • Limit your subscriptions
  • Get a part-time job to earn extra income
  • Make use of a change jar. Put all your loose change into a jar and save it rather than lose it or spend it on unimportant items (5).


It is evident that college tuition and related expenses are rising and that they will continue to rise. This will ultimately impact every students’ ability to meet their basic needs and how money will be distributed between those needs in order to try and satisfy them all. This ultimately can cause a lot of stress which may have a negative impact on students’ academic success. In order to reduce some of that stress, it is important to come up with a plan for saving money, making and raising money, spending money, as well as creating payment plans in order to equip yourself with the right tools and resources to successfully pay for college. Gathering and looking for information about college and college expenses can be helpful in preparing you for the actual cost of college and the various expenses that come with it.