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August 01, 2017

A new study released Tuesday finds community college students are much more likely to go hungry than other college students.

According to the report, at the beginning of the 2008 Recession food insecurity among community college students spiked from 14 percent to 22 percent in just one year.

The Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, published the findings Tuesday.

“We’re really starting to understand just the depths of how bad [the Recession] was. It was really bad,” says economist Diane Schanzenbach. Schanzenbach led the study, which shows students in two-year colleges are now about twice as likely to go hungry compared to their counterparts at four-year private schools.

“Two-year students come from different types of families," Schanzenbach explained. "They’re more likely to have to combine going to school with working.”

Schanzenbach says since the Recession these students have seen their wages stagnate, and many have lost access to affordable childcare.

Hundreds of schools, including Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, have opened a food bank, and the federal Government Accountability Office is now assessing the problem.

The Urban Institute report, which crunched national data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, diverges from a survey released in March by the University of Wisconsin’s HOPE Lab. That report painted a much bleaker picture of the issue of hunger on college campuses, finding one third of community college students go hungry and 14 percent are homeless. Those results came from a sample of 33,000 students at 70 colleges in 24 states.

Sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab, who led the University of Wisconsin research, says The Urban Institute report relied on surveys of households not students and "excludes many of the sorts of college students at risk of food insecurity."

"We estimate that about half of community college students have 'low' or 'very low' food security," Goldrick-Rab said. "The current analysis is of older data, and since it was collected college prices continued to rise, while the middle-class has been increasingly squeezed in the aftermath of the Recession."

NPR Ed: National Survey Shows High Rates Of Hungry And Homeless Community College Students

Related: Few Colleges Give Special Attention To Single Parents

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