Faced with survey data indicating a substantial minority of students on their campus are hungry, Utah Valley University officials began issuing emergency scholarships to students for use on non-school-related expenses.
Ten percent of students at the commuter school said they had gone an extended period of time without food because they couldn’t afford it, according to Alexis Palmer, the school’s associate vice president of student life and dean of students.
“I wouldn’t say we were surprised, we were probably more saddened by what we were discovering,” Palmer said. “But I will say, this is what’s happening across the nation.”
Thirty-six percent of survey respondents at UVU said they did not eat “sometimes” because there wasn’t money for food.
“If you’re concerned about where your next meal is going to be or where you’re going to be sleeping the next night ... you’re focused on that instead of focused on the three-page paper for the English 1010 class, or the math test you have to take,” Palmer said.
School officials did not point to one cause of the problem, but offered high cost of living as a major factor.
UVU does not house any of its 40,000 students on campus. It does not offer meal plans as part of tuition.
The emergency scholarships are funded through private donations and typically are awarded in $50 to $500 increments.
$60,000 was earmarked for the program six weeks ago and by Tuesday, Palmer said they’d burned through about a third of their funds.
“So we are looking for additional donors to be able to come forward and help assist us in providing additional funds so we can keep that program ongoing,” Palmer said.
Students can apply for the financial assistance by emailing email@example.com. The money is to be used for food, rent or medical bills.
Palmer said the university is also looking to expand its food pantry.
Nearly 300 students utilized it last year. Money has been budgeted in an upcoming remodel to expand the area, adding fresh produce and freezer space.