Understanding The Experiences of Low-Income Students Meeting Their Basic Needs: A Qualitative Study of Food Insecurity While Pursuing Higher Education



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Over the past few decades, college enrollment rates have virtually doubled. Many students who make up this increase, are the first generation in their family to attend higher education. A prerogative that was once only accessible to the affluent has, in recent years, become more available for lower and middle-income students. This unprecedented opportunity is due in large part to an increase in academic resources combined with the use of subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. Low-income students utilize these resources to pursue their higher education. However, once enrolled, another gap emerges. Paying for tuition and other education expenses, as students soon discover, becomes the first issue in a multitude of unforeseen problems. Almost immediately, their priorities shift from academics to making ends meet. The difficulties students face varies greatly and range from deciding whether to purchase a textbook for class, paying for rent, procuring essential household items, or even buying their next meal. Very few literature and research, outside of the Wisconsin hope lab, focus on the narrative of food insecure students. That being said, this qualitative research aims to fill the gap on students in higher education who struggle to meet their basic needs and are food insecure. The goals of this research are to understand how students struggling to meet their basic needs utilize different resources to get by and what students are forced to forgo in the process. To accomplish these research goals, I will interview 7-15 students at the university of Houston, who identify themselves as low or middle-income earners. After the interviews are completed, I will then transcribe the interviews into data and code them into ATLAS.ti. I will then offer future policy and campus revisions to better equip students who are struggling to succeed.