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A New Prelude to Student Debt: Food Stamps

The Educated Reporter is taking a brief summer hiatus, and will return Wednesday, Aug. 8. For the next few days you’ll have a chance to catch up on some past posts.

Like most clichés that arise by virtue of their accuracy, there are most certainly cash-strapped college students who owe a debt of gratitude to the ever-affordable ramen noodle. However, as tuition costs continue to soar –  and part-time work remains hard to find –  more and more college students apparently are turning to an unexpected source for help: food stamps.

Danielle Ford, a junior at Georgia State University, told WXIA TV in Atlanta that “with the (state financial aid) budget cuts, students are definitely going to have to think of different ways to get money and finances for things such as groceries … food stamps will definitely be a big help, absolutely. Without food stamps, they wouldn’t be able to eat.”

In Oregon, Portland State University even has information on its Web site for students about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. Students are directed to a statewide nonprofit agency to sign up. As in other states, Oregon students must meet specific criteria to qualify, based on their family circumstances, how many hours they are working and how many classes they are taking. (My attention was particularly caught by one of the factoids on the site: Over half of all U.S. citizens will use SNAP at some point during their lifetime.)

In some states, budget shortfalls have meant severe cuts to social services, including nutrition programs. Last spring, Michigan decided to revise its food stamps requirements, and to enforce stricter federal guidelines. The intent was to both save money and to reduce fraud. As a result of those changes, an estimated 30,000 college students were no longer eligible for help. Michigan will save an estimated $75 million as a result, according to the Associated Press.

It makes sense that universities might be worried about what, and how often, their students are eating. There’s no shortage of studies at the elementary and secondary school level proving that student achievement and nutrition are closely linked. Why should college be any different?

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