Thirty-six percent of U.S. college students cannot afford basic needs, according to a 2018 survey by Temple University.
Many higher education institutions have begun to recognize food and housing insecurities as potential obstacles to student retention and graduation rates, but many do not know how to combat these issues.
Johnathan Cellon, the associate dean of the Center for Student Success at Troy, said he saw these statistics and wanted to do something about it.
To localize the national conversation surrounding college students and their basic needs, Cellon and the Center for Student Success held an interest meeting April 11 that was open to all students and faculty.
In the meeting, Cellon not only introduced and explained the issue through statistics, but also opened discussion about what some other universities and colleges are doing to respond to student needs on their campuses.
One of the main issues discussed was the need for better communication and cooperation so that students can more easily find the help they need through their school and other resources.
“It just seems like we have some resources that are not being tapped,” said Barbara Metzger, an assistant professor of psychology at Troy, during the meeting.
Some in attendance discussed their personal experiences with students who had basic need insecurities.
Quinton Cockrell, an associate professor of theater, shared his account of helping a student in need.
He noticed one of his students losing a lot of weight. He said at first he thought the student was working out, but after talking to the student, he learned they were having a hard time affording food and hadn’t thought about asking for help.
Cockrell said this opened his eyes to students in need at Troy and how the university could help, which is why he decided to attend the meeting.
“I don’t think I’m alone in never considering there was a problem,” Cockrell said.
Attendees also discussed the need for a student survey at Troy to gather statistical evidence on student needs in our own university.
Jack Jeffers, a senior math major from Jackson, Missouri, attended the meeting because of a class he is taking that allows students to adopt their own project.
He said his class chose to focus on dealing with food insecurities, both on and off campus.
Jeffers, who is a resident assistant (RA), said he would like for RA training to focus more on resources to deal with food insecurity. He said RA training focuses on helping people with psychological needs, but not on basic needs.
After the meeting, Cellon said he wants to take the input from the discussion and see Troy University form a group to gather data and figure out how to curb these issues.
“Hearing what other people are doing is encouraging, even if it’s discouraging to know students are going through this issue,” Cellon said.