North Texas Daily

Joking about the broke college student lifestyle makes light of financial stressors

Joking about the broke college student lifestyle makes light of financial stressors

Joking about the broke college student lifestyle makes light of financial stressors
March 02
12:00 2023

The broke college student stereotype is prevalent, making it socially acceptable for university students to be financially conservative because they are bankrupt from paying tuition. In reality, the financial stress of attending college is not a joking matter. Being thousands of dollars in debt, having an unhealthy diet and housing insecurity are not ideal for securing a reliable future occupation. 

Enrolling and obtaining a bachelor’s degree is a privilege in itself. Low-income students in the United States cannot afford 95 percent of U.S. colleges, and the average graduate accumulates $30,000 in college debt, according to a 2017 study by the Institute of Higher Education Policy.

One would assume college costs have improved since most decent-paying jobs in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Unfortunately, that is far from reality — college costs, including tuition, increased by 25 percent in the past 10 years while student debt skyrocketed by 102 percent, according to estimates by the Federal Reserve. On average, low-income students have to pay more than 100 percent of their family’s annual income to attend one year at a four-year college, according to the IHEP.

Although College Board reported COVID-19 slowed the rapid increase in college costs, 49 percent of college students believe the pandemic negatively impacted their ability to finish their education, according to a 2020 survey by Gallup. As of 2021, 44.7 million borrowers owe more than 1.7 trillion dollars in student debt in the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Paying tuition alongside a meal plan, room and board, commute and other essentials can be overwhelming when it impacts things people wouldn’t usually worry about, like food.

Even though students pay for other college costs, they are also expected to purchase their own food — whether it is paying for a meal plan or buying ingredients to cook for themselves. As a result, 38 percent of American college students are food insecure, according to a study by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

While this statistic can vary depending on the university, it’s alarming that nearly two out of every five college students in the U.S. are worried about where their next meal will come from. It does not help that the prices of necessary, everyday items have increased – making it harder for college students to afford to pay off all their expenses. In addition, more than 700 food pantries operate on college campuses throughout the U.S., highlighting the necessity for food among college students.

Furthermore, students’ likelihood of failure increases tremendously without food to fuel their success. Eighty-one percent of students reported their hunger negatively impacted their academic performance, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The reason students settle for cheaper products like ramen, frozen meals and other microwavable food is not only to save financially but to ensure they have enough affordable food to thrive academically.

Aside from the issues with debt and unaffordable food, there is another problem: housing insecurity. Student Beans, a student loyalty network, reported 1 in 5 students in the U.S. have experienced housing insecurity. Without stable housing options for college students, they resort to withdrawing from university.

Thirty-six percent of college students thought about dropping out of school for financial reasons, according to Student Beans. However, the percentage doubles to 72 percent when accounting for students who considered dropping out because of their financial situation and have faced housing insecurity. Universities exceeding their on-campus housing capacities further exacerbate the housing insecurity crisis. 

Even if college students choose to live off-campus, they have limited options since rent has increased due to the national housing crisis. Similar to food scarcity, housing instability can negatively impact a student’s ability to succeed. Housing insecurity is destabilizing and can negatively affect a student’s mental health.

Some people, primarily older generations, may assume that ceasing this stereotype is too extreme. From the perspective of a college student, we do not have to stop joking about being broke while in university, but it’s crucial to acknowledge the importance of every student’s financial situation. 

We have limited options as college students, but we can begin by holding housing authorities accountable. We can debunk the “broke college student” stereotype by acknowledging every student has a unique financial situation. By preventing this stereotype from spreading further, we are voicing our intolerance of the botched perception of college students and hindering the authorities from capitalizing on our lack of finances.

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Ally Brown

Ally Brown

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