The 2019-20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20) is the survey’s first iteration to ask students about food insecurity and homelessness, and it may have unearthed a different kind of pandemic students have long been struggling with in pursuit of postsecondary education.
Specifically, 23% of all undergraduates and 12% of graduate students experienced food insecurity, according to an analysis by The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. Additionally, nearly one in 10 undergraduates experienced homelessness (8%). NPSAS collected responses from more almost 81,000 undergraduates and 20,000 graduate students, who in all, respectively, represent 17.1 million and 3.6 million students nationwide.
These findings reflect all institution types, which illustrates how this problem pervades across what’s thought of as wealthier private universities. HBCUs, however, experienced the highest rate (39%) of housing students experiencing food insecurity.
Black or African American (35%) and Pacific Islanders/Hawaiin (32%) experienced the highest rates of food insecurity, which illustrates that the disparities only get worse when race and ethnicity are considered. A quarter of Hispanic students were on the verge of hunger, as were 18% of Asian and white students.
Students surveyed were enrolled in institutions participating in federal financial aid programs between July 2019 and June 2020. Because students completed the survey in March 2020—during the commencement of the pandemic—The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University cautions anyone from comparing these results to those prior.
Tackling student hunger
Students struggling with food insecurity score lower grades and are at higher risk of withdrawing before completing their degree or certificate, said Tenille Metti Bowling, director of communications at Swipe Out Hunger, according to Forbes.
Institutions are ramping up their efforts to fight student hunger by building food pantries. The majority of the 800 pantries nationwide have been made in the last decade, according to the Trellis Company. However, students may not be aware of their efforts. The Hope Center found that more than half of students struggling with basic needs in 2020 didn’t apply for any support programs because they didn’t know how.