Financial Worries Plague Texas Community College Students, Affecting Academics

A survey conducted among almost 12,000 students attending Texas Community Colleges in fall 2023 shows that many students are struggling with the high cost of higher education.

These challenges not only make it difficult for students to afford their education, but also make it harder for them to concentrate on their studies and receive support from their schools. The survey, done by Trellis Strategies, provides information about the negative effects of financial stress on community college students in Texas, both personally and academically.

Financial Strains Affect Academic Focus

According to the survey, more than half (56 percent) of community college students in Texas are concerned about being able to afford their current monthly expenses. In addition, 71 percent of college students have faced financial difficulties. Many students find it difficult to focus on their studies because of financial problems. In fact, 48 percent of students say that their personal finances affect their ability to concentrate on academics.

Even though there are difficulties, there is a worrying pattern when it comes to support from institutions. Only 63 percent of students said that their school has the support services to help them with their financial situation. Furthermore, 31 percent of students who faced financial difficulties disagreed or strongly disagreed that their school is aware of their financial situation. This suggests a lack of communication or support from the institutions.

Paying for College: Strategies and Obstacles

Students use different methods to pay for their education, such as taking out student loans, using credit cards, or saving money. However, a large number of students (25 percent) have difficulty finding $500 in cash or credit in case of an emergency, and 26 percent are unable to find that money at all. Out of the people who have used a credit card, 87 percent confessed to using it to buy something they couldn’t afford at least once.

Even though there were difficulties, the majority of students (80 percent) managed to finish the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) within the last year. However, some people who didn’t fill out the form gave reasons such as thinking they wouldn’t qualify for financial aid (52 percent), believing they could pay for school without aid (19 percent), and not wanting to potentially have debt (19 percent).

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Basic Needs Insecurity

Texas community college students face challenges beyond just financial worries. The survey discovered that mental health is a big obstacle for students to continue their studies. About one-third of the people who took the survey reported feeling depressed in the last two weeks, and 45 percent reported having generalized anxiety disorder.

When students don’t have their basic needs met, it makes it harder for them to stay in school. Out of all the people surveyed, 61 percent said they had experienced some kind of insecurity with their basic needs. Specifically, 49 percent said they didn’t always have enough food, and 50 percent said they had trouble finding or keeping a home that was affordable, safe, and good quality. Out of all the students, only 5 percent said they were homeless. However, 17 percent of students had experienced homelessness either when they started college or in the past year.

In addition, other obligations outside of school can also make it difficult for students to focus on their learning. 25% of students who are parents missed at least one day of class because they didn’t have anyone to take care of their children. Similarly, about the same number of students who have jobs missed at least one day of class because their work schedule conflicted with their classes. Transportation is a problem for some students. About 11 percent of students miss classes because they don’t have a reliable way to get there.

The results of the Trellis Strategies Student Financial Wellness Survey show that Texas community college students need more support as soon as possible. To help students succeed in school and stay focused on their educational goals, it is important to address financial challenges, provide better mental health support, and make sure they have access to basic needs.

Institutions should work hard to make sure that students who are having trouble with money know about and can use support services. In addition, policies that make it easier for students to afford their education, like giving them more opportunities to receive grants and scholarships, can help lessen the financial pressure on them. Texas community colleges can improve overall student success rates by addressing these challenges and providing better support to their students.

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