It's no secret that college is an expensive prospect. With the average yearly cost of tuition ranging from $10,440 for a four-year, in-state public college to a staggering $36,880 for a four-year private school, countless students are stretching themselves thin financially to swing an education.
But a survey released earlier this year by Temple University revealed a potentially shocking statistic: 45% of students from more than 100 academic institutions had experienced food insecurity during the 30-day period leading up to the study. And that's disturbing on many levels.
Feeding your brain -- or your belly?
Part of the reason so many college students are going hungry boils down to limited funds. For many, tuition needs to take priority, leaving little money left over for meals. And although it's often possible to use student loans to cover the cost of meals both on campus and off, many borrowers are already in over their heads and don't want to increase their debt. As such, they'd prefer to go hungry rather than take out additional loans that they'll need to pay back post-graduation.
The problem, of course, is that compromising on nutrition can not only harm your health, but your studies as well. Think about it: It's hard enough to focus on a two-hour lecture, or ace a midterm exam, when you're strong and satiated. Now imagine tackling either with a perpetually rumbling stomach. It's just not a good situation to be in.
If you've been skimping on food because your college tuition costs eat up all of your available funds, then it's worth it to see if you can borrow a bit more money in an affordable fashion. In this regard, federal student loans are your best bet, as they typically charge less interest than private loans do. And if you've maxed out your borrowing options, see if you can get a job to drum up a little extra cash.
At the same time, be sure to explore the resources that may be available to you. Many campuses have food pantries where hungry students can access meal staples. Also, programs like Share Meals allow students with campus dining plans to donate funds from their accounts to others in need. It also pays to see if you're entitled to benefits through federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In addition, it never hurts to tell the trusted people in your life that you're going hungry. You never know who may be in a position to help out.
Although covering the cost of college isn't easy, you shouldn't harm your health in pursuit of a degree. If need be, consider deferring your studies for a little while and getting a full-time job. It might mean you can pad your savings account so that when you do return to school, you have extra cash on hand to pay for meals. Nobody should go hungry, and although there's plenty to be gained by earning a college degree, you shouldn't do so at the expense of your health.