A new report from the California Student Aid Commission shows that food and housing insecurity have risen among college students receiving financial aid.
In a May survey released Thursday, 53% of respondents identified as home insecure, while 66% were food insecure. This is up from a 2018–19 survey that found 36% of students were housing insecure and 39% were food insecure.
Marlene Garcia, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, called the survey results “shocking” and said their findings “tell a story of higher education dreams becoming more difficult to achieve, especially for students who face adverse obstacles to achieving their dreams.”
The report says that inflation, the pandemic, and the expiration of benefits during the pandemic are factors that make it difficult for students to meet their basic needs.
Financial aid and other benefits did not continue. For example, students living on campus may be required to sign up for a meal plan that covers an average of 13 meals per week. But signing up for a meal plan can mean students aren’t eligible for programs like CalFresh. It is possible to leave students scrambling for eight meals. Sixty-two percent of students living on campus are food insecure.
The students most likely to face difficulties are those whose families have so little money that they do not expect to contribute to their child’s education. The problem affects students of all races and ethnicities, but proportionally, black and Latino students are hit harder. In the survey, 78% of black students said they faced food insecurity, and 65% faced housing insecurity.
Students older than 24 are more likely to struggle. Parents who care for children face particular challenges.
Food insecurity affects all types of college students attending four-year and two-year schools, but housing insecurity affects students at community colleges or institutions for profit.
Students work an average of 24 hours per week. Students who are food and housing insecure are more likely to work longer hours than students who are not. Students at community colleges and for-profit colleges work more than those at CSU or UC schools. Working extra hours makes it difficult for students to focus on their studies, so CSU and UC officially recommend working no more than 20 hours per week on top of a full course load.
“It’s really hard to work enough to sustain a balanced life as a full-time student,” said one student who was surveyed. “My 24 hours are not the same as those of other students, who have the privilege of investing more time in their studies.”
This year’s survey relied on responses from 23,687 students.