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The Financial Struggles of College Students

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So much of the debate over college loan forgiveness revolves around narratives of upper middle class kids being forgiven $200,000 because they majored in underwater dance or some such thing. But what this completely ignores is the number of college students who are outright poor people, for whom college is the only path to improving their life. Maybe after college, they will cash in. But they sure as heck aren’t now. For that matter, a lot of them are in fact homeless. And the pandemic has made this all the worse for them.

The survey of 195,000 students, released Wednesday by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University found that many are hard put to pay for even the most basic necessities.

“There are just way too many students who are struggling with food and housing and they’re unlikely to succeed,” said the center’s founding director, Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology and medicine at Temple.

Students at 130 two-year colleges and 72 four-year colleges responded to the survey. Among its findings:

One in three students reported that they lost jobs because of the pandemic.

A large number of students — over two in five at two-year colleges and near a third at four-year colleges — worried about food running out before they had money to buy more.

About half the respondents at four-year colleges and two in five at two-year colleges experienced housing insecurity, meaning they were not able to pay the full amount of their rent, mortgage or utility bills.

Students of color were more likely to experience these problems, with 70 percent of Black students and 64 percent of Hispanic students facing food insecurity, housing insecurity, or homelessness.

Over half of the students reported at least moderate anxiety.

Then think about the debt they are going into just to pay their bills and eat. We as a society are going to place them in long-term peonage because they made the “choice” to take out student loans. They are going to need a way out. This is a serious societal problem and narratives of responsibility or pretending that college students are a bunch of middle class kids (the future PMC baby!) who don’t deserve our attention unlike “real” needy people, whoever we imagine them to be.

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