Five reasons students on college campuses are struggling to afford food
1. Rising tuition costs. College is more expensive than ever. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of college increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years. Even though most students are working part-time or full-time jobs while in school, tuition and room & board have become too expensive for many students to pay for on their own.
2. College meal plans are expensive. The average college meal plan costs about $4,500 per year or $18.75 per day for a three-meal-a-day plan that covers the eight months or so of a typical academic year. Many colleges require students to have a meal plan if they plan to live on campus. That’s a lot to pay for when your financial resources are limited.
3. Even when you have a meal plan, food isn’t always available. When dining halls close, low-income students often struggle to find affordable food. According to a study from Harvard, many students can’t afford to go home or take the time off work during school breaks when the majority of college dining halls close. And college campuses often don’t have affordable options for groceries nearby, especially if students don’t have their own car.
4. The “traditional” college student is changing. Over the years, the proportion of “non-traditional” college students to “traditional” students has grown. This includes students who are financially independent, enrolled part-time in school while working full-time, or did not receive a traditional high school diploma. Students aren’t starting college right after high school, with the average age of college students being 26, who go back to school to brighten their family's future but needed some help from a college food pantry.
This changing face of the average college student brings new challenges. 1 in 5 students is caring for a child and many as single parents. Between rising tuition costs, parenting, and working full-time, making ends meet can be tough.
5. Colleges don’t know students are going hungry. Even though so many students struggle, many college administrators think of hunger on campus as an uncommon exception. Because low-income students often can’t afford meal plans (which on average run $4,500 per year,) administrators are mostly exposed to students who can afford to eat on campus.