Sara Goldrick-Rab is the winner of the Grawemeyer Award for education. Goldrick-Rab is a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. Her 2016 book, “Paying the Price,” is about the struggle to pay for a college education in the United States. Her research included tracking 3,000 students over six years who entered college in Wisconsin.
I spoke with Goldrick-Rab about the relationship between access to college and food, as well as how a college education affects future generations. Listen to our conversation in the player above.
On the relationship between access to college and access to food:
“If you’re in college and your financial aid leaves you short it’s actually incredibly hard to get affordable food and affordable housing. The food in college cafeterias is getting really, really expensive. Students used to go on food stamps more often if they needed to. But now you can’t get on to SNAP — which is the modern day food stamps — unless you either have a child or you work at least 20 hours a week. And work might sound reasonable until you find out that college doesn’t count as work. So you’re asking a student to juggle at least 20 hours of week of employment on top of college. This almost never goes well.
“There are so many policies that work against people’s realistic understanding that college is important. And leave them without what they really need to finish their degrees.”
On expanding the national food program to college:
“We need some fairly common sense stuff here. You know, these are big problems but they don’t need to be fancy solutions and my point is a very simple one. My team has proposed that all we do is take the program that already exists to serve school children, you know, milk in the morning and lunch, and provide a backpack for the weekend so they don’t go hungry on Saturday and Sunday and just expand that to include colleges and universities, and particularly community colleges.
“Now maybe that’s the ideal way to do it, or maybe a better way to do it is to do a sort of voucher program where we just create vouchers that students can then use to buy lunch on their campuses. Whatever way we do it, we need to make it easier to ensure that people eat before they go to class. And that’s not because we’re a social service agency. That’s not what colleges are; they’re not social service agencies. But colleges are in charge of learning. And people can’t learn if they haven’t eaten.”
On the effects of college education on future generations:
“We know from very good research that the effects of going to college, they don’t just accrue to the individual people. They’re not just about your odds of getting a job and your odds in making a lot of money.
“What we can see is that moms who go to college have kids who go to college. And kids who go to college have kids who go to college. We also see that people who go to college are healthier, they live longer, they’re more likely to be able to create and maintain stable families, in part because they can afford to have those families. They’re also more likely to vote, they’re also more likely to volunteer.
“There’s a whole variety of things that happen across generations when people get an education. And that’s why we’ve broadened access to elementary school, and it’s why we’ve broadened access to high school and it’s why we encourage people now to go to college.”