5 Ways You Can Help Financially-Strapped College Students

Every single expense that a college student and their family is responsible for has increased in the last decade. Average state public and private tuitions, for example, have been on the increase now for several years, while conversely at the same time, the average amount offered in aid packages has been decreasing. Housing, meal plans, textbooks, fees, high-speed internet, off campus housing, transportation – basically all necessary cost of living expenses, have all increased. 

Many college families have been able to weather the price hike storm, but many, especially those who have chosen to forego federally subsidized students loans in an attempt to remain debt free during college, are struggling mightily. Even those who are taking out student loans are unable to make ends meet after tuition is paid, leaving thousands of students both food and housing insecure. 

College student walking on campus
Here’s how you might be able to help needy college students in your community. (smithly via Twenty20)

Colleges Help Low Income Students

But thankfully, all these financially strapped students and their often difficult situations are not falling on deaf college administration ears.  Campuses across the country are ramping up their services and support programs for struggling students, but they can’t do it alone, and they need our help.

We don’t often think of helping out college students in the same way we think about helping our own community’s less fortunate, but we should, especially if we live near a large university. But what exactly can we do to help needy students? Here are a few ideas:

How You Can Help Needy Students

1.Campus food pantry

There’s an excellence chance the college near you has an on campus food pantry, and the likelihood is, it’s being emptied out every few days. Next time you’re making a food pantry donation, head to a college campus. Don’t live near one? Many maintain Amazon Pantry wish lists, so you can ship non-perishable goods directly to them. 

2. Career Closet

Contact the college’s career resource center and see if they have a “career closet.” This is a place on campus that offers free career appropriate clothing for students who are beginning the job interview process, and don’t own and cannot afford professional workwear and interview outfits. (They’ve just spent four years in t-shirts and sweatpants so this is very common.)

Career closets are always in need of work suits and shoes for men and women, as well as accessories like work totes and bags, ties, and purses, so clean out your closet or have a clothing drive at work, and help get the next generation dressed for success (and hopefully working soon!)

3. Hire a student!

If you own a small business near a college, consider adding at least one student to your staff. The same applies to offering either paid (if you can afford it), or unpaid internships exclusively to college students in your town. In the same vein, do you need a babysitter, mother’s helper, yard worker, or any other odd job you think a young adult is capable of doing for you? By all means hire a college student! Bonus – they’re probably very affordable. 

4. First generation students need extra help

Colleges students who are the first in their family to even GO go college, have a very unique set of circumstances, and thus have a unique set of needs.  Often, their families not only don’t know what they need to outfit a dorm, but they’re also trying to navigate an entire new environment they’re have no experience in.

Contact your local college and inquire about any first generation college student programs they have, and how you can help. They may need extra bodies available during move in day, or simple gift arrival packages for new students that contain items like laundry detergent, first aid kits, and towels. 

5. Campus churches

On campus ministries are often the first place struggling students go to for help, so their resources are sometimes very depleted. Contact your church’s denomination that is located on the campus of your choice, and ask what kinds of things their student parishioners are in need of, and then see how you’re able to meet those needs. 

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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