Campus News

Wisconsin HOPE Lab addresses poverty facing undergraduate students

Image By: Hannah Malone and Hannah Malone

Wisconsin HOPE Lab discussed college affordability, specifically the cost of food and housing, in the first of two events for the UW-Madison “Go Big Read” book promotion at noon Thursday in the UW-Madison School of Education.

“Evicted,” this year’s “Go Big Read” novel, is written by UW-Madison graduate Matthew Desmond. The book aims to raise awareness on the topic of homelessness in the U.S..

Doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, Katharine Broton, gave a presentation highlighting the demographics of college students and their current problems while attending a university.

Among the biggest issues college students face include inadequate food supplies due to lack of finances, and the high rate of students unable to graduate because of tuition prices.

“A lot of people have this idea that because you go to college you don’t have the daily struggle with how to pay for basic needs, and that’s not necessarily the case these days,” Broton said.

HOPE Lab is the nation’s first translational research lab with multidisciplinary researchers interested in more equitable access to post-secondary education in Wisconsin and across the U.S.. The group interviews undergraduates in UW System schools to gather data to better understand issues students face. The Lab also studies social media sites to see the comments made by students struggling financially.

Broton explained the choice many colleges and universities have made over the last decade to open food pantries for students on campus. UW-Madison’s Student Activity Center is home to the Open Seat Food pantry for students.

Lab researcher Minhtuyen Mai discussed the ultimate goal of the HOPE Lab, which is to make free and reduced-priced meals available to all public post-secondary education schools in Wisconsin.

“We are trying to make a nationwide policy for public colleges to have free lunch like you would at public schools K-12,” Mai said.

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