WASHINGTON – At a roundtable at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Monday released a new report, the Hidden Cost of College: Addressing Food and Housing Insecurity Among College Students, detailing the problems students have reported dealing with food and/or housing insecurity and how these challenges impact their ability to succeed in school. The report also outlines steps the federal government can take to address this growing crisis. 

Food insecurity can mean that students have limited access to nutritious food, that they run out of food before their next paycheck arrives, that they reduce the size of their meals to make them last longer, or that they skip meals overall. Housing insecurity can mean that students do not have enough money to pay for dorms or off-campus student housing, that they sleep on a friend’s couch, or that they spend some nights in their car. One report found that 17.5 percent of the Connecticut State and Universities’ student body reported housing instability or homelessness. A student survey at the University of Connecticut found that a quarter of students reported concerns of food insecurity and 30 percent of students reported skipping a meal. 

“Food and housing insecurity are major barriers to college completion. This report is an opening for what I hope is going to be a robust conversation in Connecticut and around the country about how we can address both food and housing insecurity” said Murphy. “There are a number of steps we can take to put a little extra money in the pockets of these students so they have enough money to go to class and enough money to buy food. As a member of both the Appropriations and HELP Committees, I’m going to work hard to push for the proposals outlined in this report as we debate a new Higher Education Act.” 

Earlier this year, Murphy held a roundtable with students, faculty and advocates at UConn to inform his work on this report. In his report, Murphy outlined the following proposals to address the problem: 

  • Increase the maximum Pell Grant: Half of Pell students are cash-strapped and classified as food insecure. Increasing the maximum Pell Grant to reflect the true cost of college would help more students afford and complete college.
  • Reform work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Removing the federal work requirement for all Pell students would simplify the SNAP application process and reduce one of the many barriers to college completion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture could also include community colleges as an employment training program that meets the SNAP work requirements.
  • Require the U.S. Department of Education to college data about the basic needs insecurity: A comprehensive database at college campuses around the country would help school administrators, state university systems, and the U.S. Department of Education to better coordinate and distribute resources, such as meal vouchers or emergency housing.
  • Expand the Federal Work-Study Program: Federal work-study dollars often don’t reach the neediest students. Changing the Federal Work-Study formula to directly target Pell students would reach many more low-income students who could greatly benefit from the part-time jobs the program provides.

Click here to download The Hidden Cost of College or read the full report below.