College students face a world of income-based decisions ranging from managing financial aid to how to pay for groceries. A recent survey revealed 60 percent of students at Grayson College experienced some form of financial worry over their basic needs such as food and housing.

Financial worries aren’t limited to community college attendees either. The survey had over 167,000 respondents across the nation spanning colleges and universities of varying sizes.

The Hope Center at Grayson College conducted a survey of 401 of its students. The study revealed that 60 percent of students surveyed reported having had some form of insecurity regarding their basic needs.

Housing was the no. 1 worry with 51 percent saying they experienced housing insecurity in the previous year. Thirty-seven percent responded to having experienced a food insecurity within the 30 days prior to taking the survey. Fifteen percent of the students responded to having experienced homelessness at some point in the past year.

“The challenges our students face daily are real,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said in a news release. “We continue to focus on removing those barriers, so our students have the best chance of success in the classroom.”

Grayson College offers a program called Grayson Cares that strives to address the needs of its students. The program includes a campus food pantry, emergency aid, veteran program and additional resources. The college uses the information from the survey to develop those programs allocate resources to assist students in need.

Austin College officials said that the private college also has students that have experienced similar hardships.

“We start with the admission and financial aid process that calculates the best support we can give a student,” Austin College Vice President Tim Millerick said. “Through that plan we have an emergency fund to help support a student in need in the short term that is funded through fundraising in the community.”

While college students across the board are facing tough economic situations, Millerick believes meet individual students’ needs is often accomplished with a tight network. He said the college provides a number of work opportunities to help students as well as can provide short term loans in some cases to help students pay bills.

“The stressors students face today are fairly universal,” Millerick said.

Austin College Senior Shelby Bagby is a pre-med student who said money is always on her mind. She didn’t receive financial assistance from her parents and works a job whenever she isn’t in class.

“I knew it was going to be my burden to bear, be it loans or summer jobs,” Bagby said. “I pay for everything from groceries to gas and balancing time in school and work to pay for school. Those are the things that weigh on my mind on a daily basis.”

Bagby said the college’s financial aid department has been very helpful in finding her scholarships and fellowships to help pay for tuition and fees. The college even helped her get a fellowship to Peru which she said was a big help for her medical school applications.

She said school can be very expensive but if you budget right it can be manageable. She has an app that helps her keep track of the money she spends, and s also applies for every grant and scholarship she can get to lower her dependence on loans.

“The books are the biggest thing that comes to mind,” Bagby said. “Sometimes you have to consider the price of the books, if they are new books they are more expensive. Having to budget for that in advance is hard. You have to find the funds.”

The #RealCollege survey is led by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University. According to a news release the national survey had over 167,000 students spanning 227 colleges and universities across the country responded in 2019. It is the fifth year the survey has conducted the survey.

“It is clear that college is now about serious financial struggles, not partying. Money weighs heavily on students’ minds, and without a safe place to sleep and enough to eat they cannot concentrate on learning,” Founding Director of the Hope Center Sara Goldrick-Rab said in the news release.