For many college students, pandemic life is disappointing. For others, it is a financial crisis.


Colleges around the country have been struggling under the shadow of the coronavirus, facing declining enrollment and major budget cuts. And students have mourned the loss of the traditional college experience, grappling with the disruption as campuses closed and many classes moved on line.

But while the pandemic’s effect on ordinary college life has been widely chronicled, a new survey took a closer look at the profound effect it has had on the highest-risk students. Many, it found, have faced challenges just to make ends meet, with nearly three in five struggling for access to housing and food.

The survey of 195,000 students, released Wednesday by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University found that many are hard put to pay for even the most basic necessities.

“There are just way too many students who are struggling with food and housing and they’re unlikely to succeed,” said the center’s founding director, Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology and medicine at Temple.

Students at 130 two-year colleges and 72 four-year colleges responded to the survey. Among its findings:

  • About half the respondents at four-year colleges and two in five at two-year colleges experienced housing insecurity, meaning they were not able to pay the full amount of their rent, mortgage or utility bills.

  • Students of color were more likely to experience these problems, with 70 percent of Black students and 64 percent of Hispanic students facing food insecurity, housing insecurity, or homelessness.

“The kind of resources that students have depended on, like working a job or turning to your family when you’re in a financial crisis, these things are harder now due to the pandemic,” said Dr. Goldrick-Rab.



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