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ABOR report finds food, housing security issues among university students

The Arizona Board of Regents has released a report on the extent of food and housing insecuritiesamong students attending the state’s three public universities.

About one-fourth of Arizona State University students, 34% of University of Arizona students and 47% of Northern Arizona University students surveyed reported experiencing low or very food security. The universities also reported the following rates of housing insecurity: ASU, 14%, NAU, 19% and UA, 8%.  

A significant number of the students in the survey indicated that they did not have enough money to buy food, ate less than then they felt they should or cut the size of their meals because there was not enough money. When asked if they ever went without eating for an entire day because they lacked enough money for food, a significant percentage said “yes," the report states. 

The food security issues among these universities students speaks to larger issues statewide, said former student regent and University of Arizona grad Anthony Rusk who worked on the report.

"Food insecurity in Arizona in of itself is relatively high, especially childhood insecurity, so that problem really never leaves. You have students in elementary, middle school and high school who have free and reduced lunch and they are able to get free and reduced lunch, but once they get to the collegiate level, free and reduced programs don’t really exist anymore," he said. 

And while some students do get financial aid from the universities and the federal government, Rusk said doesn’t always cover living costs.

The three public universities have efforts to help students in need, but the survey found that the majority of students struggling to get food reported they did not seek help.

“So a lot of students feel this really tough stigma that they don’t want to reach out. The other thing that I think that this report helped slightly tackle is that we saw that students in the report itself also said that they didn’t know where to turn for help," Rusk said. 

The report recommends strategies  ABOR can take to make students aware of the resources available at their institutions and calls on on the three institutions to form Basic Needs Committees to continue looking at these issues and publish annual reports detailing their efforts to address and alleviate student food and housing needs.

"We're hoping that in doing that this becomes an annual problem that the universities can iterate on every year to continue to advance," said Student Regent Nikhil Dave. 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.