The prices of rent, food, child care, entertainment, and more have shot up, leaving students and their families struggling to accommodate the cost of living.
Tuition and loan interest rates are on the rise as well. When inflation spikes, the federal government frequently raises interest rates to slow down spending. This includes student loans.
As of August 2022 the U.S. inflation rate was 8.52%, down from an over 40-year high in June 2022. The increased price of crude oil, a reduction in global refining and other supply-chain disruptions are contributing to high gas prices.
While the national average gas price dropped down to $3.77 as of Sept. 28, high prices of other goods and services are still increasing faster than wages.
According to an article in the Washington Post, groceries cost 12.2% more than last summer. Fruit and vegetables cost 8% more, bread and cereal is up 14%, and butter and margarine are up 26%.
Rent in nearly every state is higher than it was at this time last year. So far, rent has increased more slowly than it did in 2021 but more quickly than the years before the pandemic.
Students are often on notoriously tight budgets, so when costs skyrocket, those inflexible budgets are strained beyond their capacity. The margin for excess is at a minimum. GRCC students have been noticing the inflated cost of living too.
GRCC student Shimariona Anderson, 19, of Grand Rapids said that many people aren’t used to gas prices being this high.
“l only go to work and school,” she said. “I don’t go nowhere unless I really have to. I try to save gas as much as possible.”
When asked if she’s made adjustments to how she shops for food, Anderson focuses on the moment. “I try to get stuff I’m gonna need at the moment,” she said. “I don’t go get stuff that I know I’m not gonna need right now. So I just been (trying to) shop and spend my money on stuff that I need at the moment rather than stuff I need for the future.”
As for financial advice, Anderson emphasized cutting back. “I would say use your money wisely,” she said. “We’re in a time in life where…we don’t really have extra money to do things we could have done three years ago. And when it comes to saving, get stuff you need, not everything that you want.”
Culinary arts major Rolando Franco, 22, of Wyoming, also weighed in on grocery shopping.
“I’ve been trying to stick to a budget of maybe $100 for a week,” he said. “Back then, that would last me maybe a month. I’ve been trying to budget more and go for things you can extend, and get a good amount of food from.”
Franco had a few money tips for students. “I think the big one is not buying things if you don’t necessarily need it,” he said. “Maybe you can get it on the next paycheck. ‘Cuz I used to spend a lot of money and recently I’m like ‘oh I want to buy a longboard’ but I need money for school. Try to cook more at home, it costs a lot of money to eat out.”
Nursing student Logan Mallery, 24, from Owosso highlighted gas and parking expenses.
“I think about everywhere I’m going, if it’s needed,” he said. “You have to pay for parking on top of the gas, which gets extremely high. I try to organize everything, so…all (my) classes on one day. Instead of spreading everything out throughout the week.”
Money tips Mallery keeps in mind include buying second hand. “I try to think about the things I want for a longer period,” he said. “If I decide I want something I don’t need, I usually make myself sleep on it for a while and then decide. I always go to Goodwill. I basically always try to buy used first…estate sales, garage sales.”
Aspiring law student Jim Munchow, 37, of Grand Rapids, had a different experience with the inflated summer gas prices.
“Prior to leaving my career to return to school, I always worked from home so I kinda dodged that bullet,” he said.
Munchow had some money tips as well. “I would say just keep your money as organized as possible,” he said. “Use the resources your banking institution can give you, so if it’s setting up an additional savings account to stock away some money for a spring break trip, or something like that. Keeping up habits of good financial practices at an early age will save you a lot of heartbreak in your late 20s and early 30s. It’s tough in college, but if you can do it, it pays off so much.”
Director of Student Life and Conduct Lina Blair commented on how cost increases affect students.
“We don’t necessarily know if it (inflation) is having an impact or not,” Blair said. “I would assume it is, prices are going up, and it’s harder to get to campus and buy gas.”
Blair elaborated on students’ experiences. “We knew before the pandemic that students, our students, were struggling with food and housing insecurity,” Blair said. “So if they were already struggling, that would tell me that their personal budgets are tight and it would also tell me that if things are getting more expensive, their budgets would–I would assume–be getting a lot tighter.”
GRCC has resources for students on the GetHelp page including a food pantry and multiple snack pantries around campus.
While Student Life has always referred students to off-campus resources for housing and other social services, on Oct. 1 a Family Independent Specialist will start work on campus dedicated to connecting students to state and local resources for food, housing, and other basic needs. This specialist’s office will be located on the third floor of the student center.