When students choose housing or food, studies suffer

Hayley Butzer, Special to the Lanthorn

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In a recent NPR interview, Kennesaw State University student Nikki Hamel spoke about her time being homeless during high school and college: “I started bouncing around at different friends’ houses. And I was like, oh, I don’t have it so bad. Like, I don’t live outside. I have somewhere to stay.” 

But even though Hamel had somewhere to stay, she still didn’t have a stable living place, and no matter how heartbreaking this issue seems, it’s not an uncommon scenario for those who are in school. Homelessness and food insecurity for college students is a serious reality that more people need to be aware of in today’s evolving society.

As a high school student who wants to go to college, I’ll have to start planning out what I’ll need to pay for. I’ll need books for class and pay for tuition. Then there’s the essentials like school supplies, food and let’s not forget housing. It might seem like a lot to pay for, but if I live at home, at least I won’t have to worry about food and housing. 

However, some students don’t have the luxury of doing that. According to a survey published by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin Hope Lab, more than a third of college students don’t always have enough food to eat and don’t always have stable housing for themselves. That’s a problem. 

Paying for an education is already a lot to figure out, but also dealing with lack of food and housing shouldn’t be an issue while attending college. Colleges should either provide housing or lower the costs of housing, because students shouldn’t worry about anything but their education.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy at Temple University told NPR how being homeless while in school can negatively affect the student’s education:

“It really undermines their ability to do well in school… They barely escape their conditions of poverty long enough to complete their degrees.”

This is true. If I were a homeless student trying to find something to eat and somewhere to sleep while studying for my exams, my education wouldn’t be good. This is why homelessness in college is an issue that needs to be solved now, because students shouldn’t be deprived of an education just because money is tight. What Goldrick-Rab also found in the survey was that homeless college students worked just as much or more than those who aren’t homeless. Just because a college student may be homeless, that doesn’t make them not hardworking. We need to break that stigma, because it’s not always true. 

To help solve this overlooked crisis, colleges should provide a center where insecurity students can go to. In an MLive Michigan article, Grand Rapids Community College has created both a Food Pantry in their Student Center and Grab-and-Go food pantries around the campus. By GRCC doing this, it extremely helps out the percentage of students who are food insecure and betters the ones who are bouncing from houses, because now they don’t have to worry about food and can focus on more important things, like having a roof over their heads.

Furthermore, everyone should know that homelessness isn’t something to be ashamed of, but something everyone should be aware of. It’s not a homeless student’s fault that they can’t afford housing or food, it wasn’t their choice to be homeless; it just happened. We all can understand that things happen and that we have to make some sacrifices to reach our goals. But if we can’t understand that, then we should be ashamed of ourselves and not them.

Hayley Butzer is a junior at Rockford High School in Rockford, Michigan.