Cutting Back, Eating Less, Paying The Price – Ch 5 Reflection

There are three statistics that stood out to me while reading this chapter:

“Twenty-four percent of our students indicated that in the past month they did not have enough money to buy food, ate less then they felt they should, or cut the size of their meals because there was not enough money.” – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)

and

“When asked if they ever wen without eating for an entire day because they lacked enough money for food, 6 percent of students said yes.” Sara Goldrick-Rab (2)

also

“the survey revealed that one in five students was hungry, and 13 percent were homeless.” – Sara Goldrick-Rab (3)

It is jarring to see how prevalent hunger is among college students. Thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which Sara brings up), how can we expect our students to engage in critical thinking when their physiological needs are not being met? I was pleased to read that there’s a growing number of food pantries aiming to address this issue, but the fact that some students must forego food and shelter to attend college is ridiculous.

Sara also unpacks the psychological aspect of these realities, describing a positive reinforcement cycle:

“Scarcity imposes psychic costs, reducing mental bandwidth and distorting decision making in ways that make their situations worse, not better.” – Sara Goldrick-Rab (4)

With significant student populations attending class under these conditions, I’ve been considering what the best approaches would be for instructors in the classroom. One idea I heard that seems viable is making fruit available to your students. I know this would have benefited me because I recall having packed class/lab schedules that periodically meant skipping lunch. So, access to fruit would have made a difference for me.

Finally, if you haven’t experienced SPENT yet, you need to attempt the challenge. It fits well with chapter 5 of Paying The Price.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can we expect our students to engage in critical thinking when their physiological needs are not being met? (Reflective)
  2. How can instructors help students who experience hunger in their courses?
  3. What resources, like Single Stop, food pantries, etc., are available on your campus?
  4. If you played SPENT, what was your experience like? How did it make you feel?

The featured image is provided CC0 by Juan José Valencia Antía via Unsplash.


  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2619 (Kindle Edition).
  2. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2621 (Kindle Edition).
  3. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2644 (Kindle Edition).
  4. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2794 (Kindle Edition).

Disproportionate Struggles, Paying The Price – Ch 4 Reflection

This has certainly been the hardest chapter to read thus far. Not only the struggles facing Chloe, Ian, Tyler, Nima, Norbert, and Sophie (CINNTS) but many of the statistics that Sara includes are heartbreaking:

low-income families hold student debt amounting to about 70 percent of their income, while wealthier families have student debt amounting to around 10 percent of income – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)

and

A disproportionate fraction of our African American students 38% as compared to 11% of white students) had a negative expected family contribution, signaling that their families had a great deal of financial need….White families hold as much as twenty times the wealth of black families (2)….In other words, income translates into wealth differently for black and white families. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (3)

also

38% of people from low-income families will remain in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution even if they earn a college degree. And that is an important “if,” given that only 11 percent of them are likely to complete degrees. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (4)

Notable Themes From Chapter 4

Culturally, Americans believe students should work during college.

Access to jobs and work study have dwindled significantly over the years while the cost of living has steadily risen.

There’s fear, anxiety, and shame around loans.

Different student populations are affected by increasing financial need disproportionately.

College may yield access to better jobs but for many it also requires working multiple part time jobs just to attend.

Federal financial aid shows its flaws since it “leads undergraduates to worry about the adverse side effects of their parents’ good fortunes” (5). For example, a parent receiving employment may decrease aid given to students, leaving them in a worse predicament.

Reflection

While reading the lengths CINNTS went through to attend college, I’m reminded how blessed I was for my opportunities. Even though I recall skipping a physical chemistry class for a painting gig that paid well and working around 30 hours a week one semester (the hardest of my undergraduate career), I didn’t have to sell a beloved horse or forgo my study abroad experience. I’m thankful. I’m really thankful that, for much of my academic career, I was able to focus on learning.

Also, chapter 10 can not come soon enough. Not because I want Paying the Price to end; instead I’m patiently awaiting the solutions that Sara will propose.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Paul Bergmeir via Unsplash.


  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2017 (Kindle Edition).
  2. Taylor et al., “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics,” 1. (as cited in Paying the Price).
  3. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 1898 (Kindle Edition).
  4. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2115 (Kindle Edition).
  5. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, Loc 2446 (Kindle Edition).

Paying the Price – A Pre-Reading Reflection

In addition to facilitating another round of GOBLIN with John Stewart over the next several weeks, I’m planning on reading Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick-Rab as part of a reading circle. Before I crack the (digital) spine of this book about the rising cost of college and its impacts, I wanted to take a moment and reflect.

While reading Paying the Price, I will be actively thinking about actions I can take to help students with the rising costs of college degrees. Not only do I anticipate Sara Goldrick-Rab’s recommendations, but I want to spend some time brainstorming what I can do to assist students in both the short-term and long-term. In particular, I want to focus on how I can help inform and educate others about these issues in order to propagate aid beyond what I can provide alone. Initially, I’m thinking this may manifest itself in my current projects as I think about how to engage faculty members in curriculum development. For example, continuing to work with instructors on ways to reduce the monetary overhead for students to succeed in their courses. However, I also want to keep an open mind for Sara Goldrick-Rab’s propositions in Paying the Price as well as what arises from the weekly discussion of the reading group.

To promote public reflection, I took a moment on Friday to setup a FeedWordPress website to syndicate any and all online reflections from this reading group. If you are interested in such musings check out payingtheprice.oucreate.com.

Here’s to working towards a better future for our students!

The featured image is provided CC0 by Jimi Filipovski via Unsplash.