Survey: Half of College Students Struggle to Find Food, Shelter

The survey revealed that 45% of students reported being food-insecure and 56% reporting having some sort of housing insecurity.

Survey: Half of College Students Struggle to Find Food, Shelter

The survey found that only one-fifth of students received food stamps.

A survey released Tuesday revealed that about half of college and university students are having trouble putting food on the table and finding a place to live.

The #RealCollege survey took the input of 86,000 students at 123 colleges and universities in 24 states, reports the Cap Times. It is a continuation of Sarah Golrick-Rab’s work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which she left in 2016. She is now the director of Temple University’s Hope Center.

“This report is the latest to suggest a widespread basic needs security crisis diminishing the college completions prospects of millions of students,” Goldrick-Rab said. “Despite sizable evidence of need, students are still not receiving adequate government support.”

The report found that 45% of students reported experiencing food insecurity within the past year. Their fears ranged from not being able to afford food to skipping meals for a day to save money. Nearly half of the students also said they couldn’t afford a balanced meal.

The survey also found that 56% of students experienced housing insecurity, with 30% struggling with rent increases and 3% being summoned to housing court due to lack of payment.

Nineteen percent said they were forced to default and 4% have moved three or more times to find affordable housing.

Devastatingly, 17% of the students reported being homeless in the past year.

The effects of an unstable shelter or diet can have long-term, profound impacts on a student’s ability to succeed, the report said.

“Housing insecurity and homelessness have a particularly strong, statistically significant relationship with college completion rates, persistence and credit attainment,” the report said. “Researchers also associate basic needs insecurity with self-reports of poor health, symptoms of depression and higher perceived stress.”

The survey also found that minority groups, such as LGBTQ or women, are struggling more with basic needs than white males. Those attending two-year colleges as opposed to four-year institutions are also worse-off.

It was also found that the vast majority of students don’t take advantage of the available public assistance in these areas.

Only one-fifth of the food-insecure students received food stamps and only 7% of students who had been homeless at some point received housing assistance.

The report’s authors recommend the following for colleges and universities:

  • Appoint a Director of Student Wellness and Basic Needs
  • Engage community organizations and private sector in proactive, rather than reactive, support
  • Develop and expand an emergency aid program

“Isolating basic needs into a single office, without broad campus support for a ‘culture of caring,’ limits efficacy,” the report said.

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About the Author


Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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One response to “Survey: Half of College Students Struggle to Find Food, Shelter”

  1. Randy says:

    It is important to know that hunger and food insecurity are closely related, but distinct, concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household….The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

    Goldrick-Rab said. “Despite sizable evidence of need, students are still not receiving adequate government support.”
    John F. Kennedy said. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

    My point is there are already many opportunities available (military service, national guard, community college service in exchange for tuition) that this report does not address. This report is repeatedly used …..
    December 07, 2015—hungry-to-learn
    April 3, 20184:21 PM ET

    Bottom line the colleges that are for profit need to look inward (at a deeper level), not outward instead of advising to
    Appoint a Director of Student Wellness and Basic Needs, Engage community organizations and private sector in proactive, rather than reactive, support, Develop and expand an emergency aid program. The colleges, universities and Goldrick-Rab need to promote, educate students on self reliance, economical food choices and encourage less expectant government support (hand outs). Free college does not mean free room and board as well (unless the college, university is willing to provide it), which is exactly Mrs. Goldrick-Rab has been attempting to accomplish over past several years, Her own book addresses the rising cost of college, as a college employee has she accepted a pay cut? Better yet the real evil in colleges coaches salaries, just look at SaraGoldrick-Rab’s own college …… just saying.

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