Hunger in higher education
Posted on 06/11/15 by Amelia Hayes
Ohio’s 12 food banks serve more than 2 million of our neighbors every year, addressing a critical need. But food aid has been cut in Ohio. Also, Ohio’s bad economy should qualify us for a statewide food stamp waiver that allows people to keep getting food stamps even if there are no work slots available for them. The Kasich administration chose not to get that statewide waiver, instead requesting the waiver only in rural counties and not in urban areas. Both policy decisions increase hunger, especially in our cities.
But one place we don’t expect to find hunger is on college campuses. When I read a Wall Street Journal article on colleges launching food pantries on their campuses, I was stunned. I knew all about college students eating Ramen noodles – those little 25-cent packets of pure sodium were sometimes all I could afford in college, too. But I never had to frequent a food pantry, and never fathomed that food pantries and food aid programs would be needed on over 200 college campuses nationwide, including our own Ohio State, Cleveland State, Owens Community College, Wright State, University of Akron, and Lorain County Community College.
It’s great that colleges are providing food aid for students who need it. But why does someone have to go hungry to go to college? The increasing cost of obtaining a degree, the massive amounts of student loan debt, and hunger on campus all point to a larger issue: Failure to invest in higher education and enact policies that would help poor and middle-class students get ahead.
These alarming numbers do point to one positive: Colleges might be doing a better job of reaching down the economic ladder to bring in students from poor families. But these students have less of a family cushion to fall back on. Better support for higher education could reduce tuition and enable students’ monthly budgets to have an adequate line item for food. Ohio support for higher education is down 18 percent from 2008 levels. Annual student aid in Ohio is $2,237 below the U.S. average, and tuition and fees here are 12th highest in the nation.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last month that years of cuts have strained college affordability all over the country, especially for students whose families struggle to make ends meet. It’s no wonder many college students are running on empty stomachs.
-- Amelia Hayes