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College is creating poverty, so let’s make it free, Temple’s Sara Goldrick-Rab says

Hear the Hope Center for College Community and Justice founder's talk at TEDxPhiladelphia.

Sara Goldrick-Rab speaking during TEDxPhiladelphia in May 2019. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Technical.ly is one of 22 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice.

Nearly half of U.S. college students surveyed by Sara Goldrick-Rab’s Hope Center for College Community and Justice have recently experienced food insecurity, or gone hungry. That’s the result of bad policy, says the Temple University professor and researcher.

Most students who enter college see it as “The Great Investment” that will pay off in the long run in upward mobility, Goldrick-Rab said during her talk at the TEDxPhiladelphia conference (themed “Unintended Consequences”) this past May.

“But the new economics of college have changed those ideas and made them far more difficult to become realities,” she said, citing rising tuition rates and the increased difficulty of obtaining enough financial support to pay for living expenses — rent, medical care, transportation, food, etc.

Thus, students who don’t come from wealth or whose parents won’t or can’t support them take out tens of thousands of dollars in students loans or try to hold one or more jobs while also going to class. Goldrick-Rab cites the examples of a few students she’s met at Temple: one who is supporting his mother with his own loan money as she undergoes treatment for cancer, one whose loans don’t cover her living expenses, one whose parents cut him off after he came out.

So, how to change all that? Make college free, she says. Hear the full, recently published talk below.

P.S. Drexel University professor and ExCITe Center founder Youngmoo Kim also gave a TED talk at the conference, about racial equity, education in STEM and breaking the “monoculture” of tech. Read a recap of his talk here.

Companies: TED / Temple University

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