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Hunger and Class

by Tod Massa 29. April 2016 23:14

This week saw the #RealCollege conference sponsored by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. Held in Milwaukee it was a focus on food and housing insecurity for college students. Wick Sloane wrote about his experience and concerns in this essay at InsideHigherEd. As I've written before, I think this is an important topic. I have been told that as many as 10% of Tidewater Community College's students are homeless. It seems to me that this is something we should measure. I am not wild about adding to the collections, but sometimes there is great necessity to do so to understand the scope of a problem. What do you think, is this something we should address? But first, how many Virginia institutions are collecting any data on food and housing insecurity? If you have information from surveys or other sources, I would be interesting in learning about it.

I think this article on class inequality at elite universities touches upon related issues. Students face a variety of challenges due to their economic circumstances.

Food and shelter are the most basic of necessities of life. Addressing those necessities can only improve student well-being and success. Of course, these are also the basis of my belief in the value of understanding wage and debt outcomes of graduates. Are our graduates able to work and earn enough to meet those basic needs, repay student loans, and participate fully in the economy?

I hope we can get to the point where we can confidently answer the question with a simple, "yes." The Plan for Higher Education establishes a goal of 75% of undergraduate completers (associate & bachelor) earning at least 200% of the federal poverty level in their third year. It is not a high standard, but one that allows for all manner of positive outcomes including continued enrollment, the Peace Corps, and so forth. I think it is a good start.



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