Starving to learn: some college students can’t afford food, tuition

A couple legislative bills will make students, even those enrolled in a vocational school, eligible for SNAP benefits.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 2:28 PM CDT
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - It’s no secret that college is expensive. According to the Feeding Texas Network, 29 percent of four-year college students in Texas have experienced hunger because of tuition and high food costs. But, help may be on the way because of a couple legislative bills that will make students, even those enrolled in a vocational school, eligible for SNAP benefits.

Food or education? That choice is something some college-aged students haven’t had to face in the last couple years according to East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane.

“College students have not been typically able to apply for SNAP benefits, food stamps, for food assistance. But, that was changed during COVID, and a lot of those benefits are going to be expiring in May,” Cullinane said.

However, Senate Bill 557 and House Bill 1501 could help expand who is eligible.

“What we’re advocating for is students in two-year programs studying in courses that are vocational and technical in nature. We really want to see those kids not make a choice against getting their education just because they were having trouble making ends meet,” Cullinane said.

Longview Community Ministries Program Manager Paige Brewer said it’s a need they’ve been helping to fill at three Longview colleges for over a year, thanks to a Christus Health grant.

“That will provide the money that we need to purchase the items for the College Connection,” Brewer said.

The program helps feed students at Kilgore College and UT Longview campuses, as well as LeTourneau University.

“These kids have been very appreciative when they come through the line. There’s times when we do have fresh produce, dairy, as well as canned goods,” Brewer said.

“I remember when I was in college, just basically existed off of macaroni and cheese, and things really haven’t changed that much. The kids are going through programs now. We hate to see them not get their education or get that education interrupted because they’re not able to support themselves,” Cullinane said.

Although there are programs now, if the bills pass, it may be easier for students to get food for thought.

Senate Bill 557 would expand nutritional assistance to include career schools as well as universities and junior colleges. Eligible students could also receive SNAP benefits during an unpaid school associated internship.

A Longview organization is working to help solve the problem of college students who struggle to afford food.