When College Students Need Food Pantries More Than Textbooks

As a more racially and socioeconomically diverse body of students pursues college in the United States, schools find themselves responding to more requests to stock food pantries and hand out vouchers for supplies at campus bookstores.

Universities have different reasons for offering students emergency help when things go wrong unexpectedly. Some of them are humanitarian. But, as a new report from NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education points out, many colleges are creating emergency-aid programs in part to increase graduation rates, particularly among first-generation, low-income students, and students of color, who make up a growing number of college goers but often drop out at higher rates than their white and affluent peers.

NASPA looked at 523 schools across various sectors of the higher-education landscape—public and private, two-year and four-year collegessurveying vice presidents for student affairs and financial-aid directors. While nearly 75 percent of respondents said their school had some sort of emergency-aid program, most also said that need outpaces resources, and few actually use data to figure out which students are most at risk of quitting, in part because they’re already overwhelmed by requests.

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