Financial Worries Plague Texas Community College Students, Impacting Academic Success


As the cost of higher education continues to rise, a survey conducted among nearly 12,000 students attending Texas Community Colleges in fall 2023 reveals the significant financial challenges many students face.

These challenges not only impact their ability to pay for their education but also hinder their academic focus and support from institutions. The survey, conducted by Trellis Strategies, sheds light on the personal and academic toll of financial stress among community college students in Texas.

Financial Worries Plague Texas Community College Students, Impacting Academic Success

(Photo : PEXELS / Andrea Piacquadio)

Financial Strains Affect Academic Focus and Institutional Support

The survey found that over half (56 percent) of community college students in Texas worry about being able to pay their current monthly expenses. Moreover, 71 percent have experienced financial difficulties while in college. These financial burdens can have a profound effect on students' ability to concentrate on their studies, with 48 percent reporting that personal finances impact their academic focus.

Despite these challenges, a concerning trend emerges regarding institutional support. Only 63 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that their school has the support services to help them address their financial situation. Additionally, 31 percent of students who had experienced financial challenges disagreed or strongly disagreed that their school is aware of their financial situation, indicating a gap in communication or support from institutions.

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Paying for College: Strategies and Obstacles

To fund their education, students employ various strategies, including student loans, credit cards, and personal savings. However, a significant number of students (25 percent) struggle to find $500 in cash or credit in case of an emergency, with 26 percent unable to find that money at all. Among those who have used a credit card, 87 percent admitted to using it to purchase something they did not have the money for at least once.

Despite these challenges, most students (80 percent) had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the past 12 months. However, among those who did not fill out the form, reasons included not thinking they would be eligible for aid (52 percent), believing they could afford school without aid (19 percent), and not wanting the possibility of taking on debt (19 percent).

Basic Needs Insecurity and Other Barriers to Success

Financial worries are not the only challenges facing Texas community college students. The survey found that mental health is a significant barrier to student persistence, with one-third of respondents experiencing symptoms of depression in the past two weeks, and 45 percent experiencing generalized anxiety disorder.

Basic needs insecurity also poses a threat to student persistence. Sixty-one percent of respondents had experienced at least one form of basic needs insecurity, with 49 percent being food insecure and 50 percent facing challenges securing or maintaining affordable, safe, and quality housing. While only 5 percent of students self-identified as homeless, 17 percent had been unhoused since starting college or within the past 12 months.

Furthermore, outside responsibilities can also hinder students' learning. One-quarter of parenting students missed at least one day of class due to a lack of childcare, while a similar number of working students missed at least one day of classes due to conflicts with their job. Transportation is another issue, with 11 percent of students sometimes, often, or always missing classes due to a lack of reliable transportation.

The findings of the Trellis Strategies Student Financial Wellness Survey highlight the urgent need for increased support for Texas community college students. Addressing financial challenges, improving mental health support, and ensuring access to basic needs are essential steps to help students succeed academically and persist in their educational goals.

Institutions must strive to improve awareness of and access to support services for students facing financial difficulties. Additionally, policies that alleviate financial burdens, such as expanding access to grants and scholarships, can help reduce the financial strain on students. By addressing these challenges, Texas community colleges can better support their students and improve overall student success rates.

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