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Editorial: Hunger hits higher education

Americans are becoming more and more aware of the increasing price tag associated with higher education.

Much of the focus recently has been on the heavy albatross of debt that can hang around students’ necks once they earn their diploma. In recent weeks, though, there have been some disturbing stories published about another potential impact that the cost of college can have on some students — going hungry.

This troubling situation was brought into sharp focus during the recent NCAA Division I basketball tournament, when Connecticut senior Shabazz Napier revealed that there had been times during his college career that he hadn’t been able to afford to eat.

“I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,” Napier said, “... there’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities.”

How is that possible that a student-athlete in one of the nation’s top basketball programs can’t get enough to eat?

As it turns out, it’s a combination of factors. Under NCAA rules now, scholarship athletes in Division I programs are allowed to provide one training table meal per day. The cost of that meal is deducted from the amount of money those athletes receive to purchase food plans or other food with. Non-scholarship athletes must pay for all their meals. If an athlete comes from a disadvantaged background, with little money to spare, then, one can see how with all the other costs associated with school that food could easily be an issue.

And even more so, we’d assume, for those college students who aren’t athletes.

As reported in the Washington Post last week, college administrators are seeing more students with food security issues.

“Between paying rent, paying utilities and then trying to buy food, that’s where we see the most insecurity because that’s the most flexible,” Monica Gray, director of programs at the College Success Foundation-District of Columbia, told the Post.

A number of colleges and universities, including Greenfield Community College, have established food pantries for students.

“Campuses across the country are starting to realize that there is that sector of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Nate Smith-Tyge, director of the Michigan State University Student Food Bank in published reports. “It’s not only a moral issue but also a curricular and academic issue.”

We agree.

Once those recent stories were published, the NCAA decided to change its rules on food. Colleges and universities should join in and recognize going to school shouldn’t create food insecurity. Unfortunately, it’s just another symptom of the hunger in America — whether you’re a student enrolled in college or not.

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