The reality of the broke college student trope

GV Lanthorn Editorial

GV Lanthorn Editorial

Lanthorn Editorial Board

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As tuition and housing rates continue to increase, so does the age-old joke about the poor college student. The reference to being a ‘broke college student’ continues to be commonly referenced as students trash-pick old furniture, eat ramen and donate to BioLife for spending money. To struggle financially while getting a degree has almost become a rite of passage that builds character for those on the brink of adulthood. 

All jokes aside, evidence shows that more than a quarter of college students are experiencing actual poverty, often in the form of hunger. Many students find themselves to be food insecure, unsure where their next meal will come from.

Food insecurity is becoming a predominant problem on campuses across the country, with many students dedicating their funds to school instead of food. Skipping meals can impact a student’s physical and mental health while deterring their academic success. While the poor college student joke may continue, hunger is not the punchline. This trope may be glossing over the serious problem of student hunger.

One big factor to food insecurity is the increase of low-income and non-traditional students who are enrolling in college at heightened rates. It is great to see higher education become more widely available, however this may put these students at a disadvantage. The college population has become a diverse place for people of all ages and means, which can explain why hunger may not be a common problem for traditional students. Many non-traditional and low-income students will have to choose between breakfast and textbooks, utilities versus groceries, and food will most often be the losing option.

This is why universities need to be looking at the problems all students are facing, not just the younger, post-secondary students. Luckily, Grand Valley State University has a food resource known as Replenish for students in need of food. Many students may still not know about this resource, especially those who keep their time on campus to a minimum. The promotion of Replenish, along with further education about campus food insecurity, can assist those that are struggling to get by.

At the end of the day, people will still use the broke college student trope to joke about the strange behaviors of college kids on a budget. However, keeping in mind those that are struggling with poverty and donating when possible can assist those that are living the reality of being a poor college student.