Survey: Many Mass. Community College Students Can't Afford Food and Housing

May 14, 2018

A new survey finds that almost half of community college students in Massachusetts reported not being able to afford enough food or a place to live.

The study from the University of Wisconsin and Temple University looked at whether students at Massachusetts public colleges and universities had adequate food and housing -- and included fifteen community colleges.

Some of them, including Greenfield Community College, are addressing the food issue with a pantry where students can stock up on food, personal care items and diapers for themselves and their families.

"We really became aware that this was an issue quite a few years ago when faculty were talking about how, if they laid food out like in a common area, it was eaten very quickly and we also obviously have a lot of anecdotal information from our students as well," said Judy Raper, GCC's director of student development. .

According to the survey, housing insecurity is also a significant issue for Massachusetts community college students.

At Holyoke Community College, 16 percent of students surveyed reported some form of homelessness in the past year.

Janina Vargas is the colleges vice president of student affairs.

"[Just last week] I had a faculty member bring a student to our office, and she had just found out this student had been living in his car for the last three, four weeks," Vargas said.

Vargas said an emergency fund, recently set up for students facing economic crisis, was used to secure permanent housing for the student.

At Greenfield Community College, Judy Raper said that almost half the students surveyed reported housing insecurity and twelve percent had experienced some form of homelessness in the past year.