College Creates Choice Between Food and Books

In 2014, Hunger For America estimated that more than two million of their clients were full-time college students. Roughly 30.5-percent of these students also added they sometimes have to choose between food and educational costs.

When students live on campus at Manhattan College they have the luxury of an unlimited meal plan, and while MC implemented an optional commuter meal plan this semester, it is yet unclear how many students have signed up for the plan.

Manhattan College’s room and board is currently set at $15,010, a cost that commuting students choose to not pay, and while College Board suggests that the average annual cost for students living off of campus in apartments is $10,138, upperclassmen who move off campus often still have to budget and make decisions regarding food.

Devin Prant studies exercise science at Manhattan College and lived on campus freshman and sophomore year. By the time that Prant’s junior year came around she decided to get an apartment with her friends for the remaining years to save money.

“Living off campus has definitely changed the way I eat because of money,” said Prant.  “It was easy to run to the dining hall and grab something but living off campus you don’t have that option.”

With that said, Manhattan College has a policy that not only takes away meal plans from students who move off of campus, but in some cases, also portions of their merit scholarships are taken away.

“Awards are subject to change if your residency status changes while attending Manhattan College,” according to the College’s website.

Another student, sophomore Michael Clark commutes to campus from his home just north of Manhattan College.

“Food definitely comes into play every day for me,” said Clark. “I work and get a paycheck every week so I have to balance how much I spend on lunch and breakfast that week.”

Prant agreed that budgeting is an important part of her weekly expenses, adding that healthy eating makes food shopping especially expensive.

“I make sure I create a list before I go [grocery shopping] so I can be on a budget. The grocery store is very costly and things add up quickly,” she said. “I definitely shop healthy so that makes my shopping even more costly. I find myself eating lesser because of money and trying to save food for as long as I can.”

Clark emphasized that food costs can interfere with other purchases that he would like to make and that he is always aware of how much money he spends on food.

“If I want to save money and spend it on something else, sometimes I just have to eat less,” said Clark.

Prant added a similar idea.

“I find it tough when grocery shopping and what to choose because I find myself looking at prices and looking for the cheaper items so I can save as much money as possible,” Prant said.

Prant said the cost of food does not interfere with the cost of books and other educational costs.

“I don’t find that food money interferes with book money because books come first and usually I pay for them in the beginning of the year,” said Prant.

Clark, though, said he has had to decide between food and textbooks, on multiple occasions.

“Food money totally interferes with book money because books are really expensive so you have to save up and plan out how you are going buy your books, breakfast and lunch everyday,” said Clark. “It adds up and food is an everyday thing.”

College Board estimates the annual cost of books and materials at $1,168 for undergraduate students. Manhattan College has an official estimate which is posted on their website at $1,200 per year for Jaspers.

The College stands by their founding principles and Lasallian values and shares on the Manhattan College website that all students economic needs are accommodated to the fullest degree, although Student Financial Services failed to respond to requests for comment.

“One of the most important parts of our Lasallian mission is to provide education for all, regardless of background or economic class. This ideal dates back to the work of our founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle, who opened schools for the poor and underprivileged in France,” the site reads.

Head of the Commuter Student Association, Micaela Bishop developed a program to help bridge the gap for commuter students, ensuring that their nutritional needs were met for a cheaper cost at Manhattan College.

Assistant General Manager of Gourmet Dining, Brian Conway addressed the concerns of Student Government almost immediately.

“In response to the efforts of Student Government we have added commuter meal plans to help accommodate these students and make their days easier, ” said Conway.

Commuter affairs and quality of life on campus was a large emphasis Student Body President, Dorian Persaud campaigned for last spring.

Michael Clark chimed in on this topic, adding how he feels these meal plans could be more effective and better for the commuter students in terms of saving as much money as possible.

“They should have more discounts for commuters like kind of what they do now at Kelly. Five dollars for a sandwich, chips and drink is very reasonable, but they should do this for breakfast too,” said Clark.

These changes are still in the beginning stages, but it is notable that work is being done to meet these needs for commuter students.

The National Center for Education Statistics shared that a staggering 60-percent of all college students receive no financial help from their parents.

As the cost of food, tuition, books and everything else for a college student continue to increase, it becomes more important that college institutions continue to take steps such as these and aim towards making everyday life cheaper and more enjoyable for both residents and commuters.