OLYMPIA, Wash. — A new report out today shows that six out of 10 community or technical college students in Washington state experienced hunger or housing insecurity over the past year, even though most of them are working.
Nearly 13,550 students from 28 community and technical colleges participated in the #RealCollege Survey from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia in the fall of 2019. The Washington state survey was part of the nation’s largest assessment of basic-needs security among college students.
The report found that 41 percent of students who responded to the survey were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 51 percent said they faced some level of housing insecurity the previous year and 19 percent said they were homeless.
In the surveys, students were asked questions like whether they could afford to eat balanced meals, whether they worried about running out of food, and whether they had difficulty paying their rent or a mortgage. More than two-thirds of the students who experienced homelessness temporarily stayed with a relative or friend, or couch surfed.
Another finding: 63 percent of students experiencing food or housing insecurity were already employed.
“Our students are sleeping in cars, crashing on couches, holding down jobs and getting food from pantries and food banks to make their way through college, because they know that a college education will improve their lives,” said Jan Yoshiwara, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Some groups of students were particularly hard hit by basic needs insecurity. These include students of color, students who identified as LGBTQ, and students who had once been in foster care or incarcerated.
In the area of food insecurity, 55 percent of American Indian or Alaskan Native students, 54 percent of Black students, and 47 percent of Hispanic or Latinex students said they struggled to put food on the table, compared to 39 percent of white students.
Similar disparities existed in the area of housing insecurity. Sixty-five percent of American Indian or Alaskan Native students, 63 percent of Black students, and 57 percent of Hispanic or Latinex students said they struggled with housing, compared to 51 percent of white students.
Yoshiwara said the report underscores the importance of Washington’s new financial aid program, the Washington College Grant. Created by the Legislature last year, the Washington College Grant replaced the State Need Grant and fully funded the program so eligible students are guaranteed financial aid without fear of ending up on a waitlist. The program also made financial aid available to more low- and middle-income families.
“Students who are hungry or wondering where they'll sleep at night have a hard time concentrating on their studies,” said Yoshiwara. “That’s why the Washington College Grant is so important; it helps provide some level of financial support so students can stay in school, graduate and get good jobs that support themselves and their families.”