It’s been awhile since I’ve written on the college debt issue although the topic has certainly had play within the household as Eldest continues her way through college and Middle starts to examine options. But while inured to the issue, I was appalled to find that the local state university’s Student Christian organization now runs a food bank for students so that they have something to eat. Why? Because in an effort to get through with as little debt as possible, students are cutting out the student meal plan and getting by on what they can cadge.
This particular food bank is not officially sanctioned by the university as any approved student organization but is indeed one of the multiple services offered by the campus student christian organization. It has a paid chaplain whose salary is covered by the local ministerium of churches but no other staff and it’s office is located in a university provided building. The need was noticed a very few years ago by the chaplain when he found that some students were simply going without and then hitting events in order to feed themselves. Now the notion of college students living on ramen isn’t new and even I had friends and acquaintances eating cheap hot dogs, spaghetti and ramen in college; but what’s different is now that these students can’t even afford the cheapest food and are simply doing without in entirety. When I spoke with my own pastor, who sits on that group’s board and informed me of the bank’s existence, she stated that what they were handing out were single serving items such as instant soup or single serving mac/cheese which were easy to fix when there are minimal kitchen facilities. The kids aren’t cutting out the niceties to go to the basics, they’re being forced to cut out the basics in the entirety.
There’s now a fundamental disconnect in our society. We sell the importance of a college education and many kids take it to heart, yet we saddle them with crippling debt and a barista job at Starbucks. Now that they’re getting the disconnect, they’re doing everything that they can – unhealthy as it is – to still get the degree. It’s time to rethink higher education and put our money where our mouth is…because God knows that more than a few kids aren’t putting anything in their mouths.