Food and housing stubbornly remain problematic to secure for many college students, reports the Wisconsin Hope Lab. In the largest national survey of basic security needs for university students, researchers found that 36 percent of four-year college students were food and housing insecure. As income remains flat compared to increased tuition, housing and living expenses, millions of students are forced to work long hours outside of college and take on more student loan debt. These students are more susceptible to financial and family emergencies that stop them from pursuing their degrees. Ameritech Financial, a document preparation service company, urges students to utilize all resources available to persist in their education. But, for borrowers who have student loan debt and lack the degree or good-paying job to keep up, the company can assist them navigating what many seem to feel is a complex process of applying for federal programs such as income-driven repayment plans (IDRs).
“It is discouraging to hear that so many of our hardest-working students find themselves unsure where they can find their next meal or place to sleep,” said Tom Knickerbocker, executive vice president of Ameritech Financial. “And despite their best efforts, once they leave school, these students are more likely to run into trouble with their student loan debt. That’s where we come in. We can help borrowers apply for and maintain enrollment in IDRs, perhaps lowering payments that might even end in forgiveness in 20 to 25 years.”
Students who are challenged paying rent and utilities or have to move frequently are considered housing insecure, and this lack of security was experienced at differing rates depending upon race and ethnicity. Well over half of Native Americans faced housing insecurity at four-year institutions, while 43 percent of Blacks and 39 percent of Hispanics were similarly challenged. Startlingly, nearly one in 10 of all university students were homeless, meaning they slept in their car, a shelter, an abandoned building or outside.
Similarly, food insecurity is defined as uncertainty about the availability of nutritious, safe food and was experienced at very high rates by all students. Blacks, 47 percent, and Hispanics, 42 percent, were the most food insecure, while Asians, 27 percent, and whites, 30 percent, were the least food insecure.
Researchers note that those with the most food and housing insecurity need to work the most outside of college and had the least amount of time for leisure and sleep. These stresses are associated with lower grades and lower rates of degree completion, often leading to financial challenges after college, including difficulty keeping up with student loan debt.
“It is heartbreaking that so many students are unable to secure food and housing on a regular basis,” said Knickerbocker. “It is also upsetting that these students are the ones who face a lifetime of student debt that cruelly hinders their ability to have financial security. We offer help to anyone needing relief from the heavy burden of student debt by assisting borrowers in applying for available federal programs such as IDRs.”