Struggling with money costs more than dollar signs

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

Poverty can be an overwhelming cycle to escape and even talk about for some people. It can be associated with being homeless or disheveled, and some people may not expect that college students are included in poverty rates; however, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, they are.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 25.4 percent of individuals in Manhattan are below the poverty level while 13.6 percent of individuals in Kansas are under the poverty level. These statistics include K-State students and also the rest of the Manhattan community, which is what leads to the high poverty rate in Manhattan.

“There are so many ways people could get out of poverty,” Beverly Olson, executive director of Shepherd’s Crossing, said. “But there are so many reasons why they don’t.”

Shepherd’s Crossing is a nonprofit organization that helps families with budget counseling and financial support, according to its website. There are several other nonprofit organizations in Manhattan that offer support for families and students who are affected by poverty.

“Because we are a large university town, it interferes with part-time jobs that are available and high rent prices,” Olson said. “So that puts the pressure on not only students, but other residents in town.”

Olson said there is a major cycle when it comes to poverty, and it can be extremely difficult to get out of. She said the way some people were brought up, the generational poverty and their mindset all play a part in the cycle.

“If we could just encourage them to take small steps out of their cycle, I think that’s the best thing we can do, and encourage them more often,” Olson said.

Struggling with money is something Anna Ladd, senior in social work, said she believes needs to be focused on and dealt with by better resources.

“If I didn’t have my family helping me pay for college, then I’d have to go into enormous debt just to attend a state school,” Ladd said. “When money is the top of your concern, you don’t have enough time for creativity or play.”

Ladd said another part of the poverty cycle is the issue of buying cheap products instead of bulk because the price is lower, but the quality is not as good.

“I think that when you have to buy cheaper products, like buying a $30 backpack every year that breaks, is eventually more expensive than buying one $100 backpack that you can use for several years,” Ladd said. “That’s one of those examples that when you buy cheaper things, you have to keep buying them more (often).”

Austin Schuberth, junior in mechanical engineering, said struggling with money can cost students in a variety of ways.

“Struggling with money costs you a comfortable life,” Schuberth said. “It costs you sleep, and it’s hard living paycheck to paycheck, not knowing if you’re going to make rent. It’s hard because healthy, organic food is more expensive, and the more processed stuff, like ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee, are cheaper.”

Daniel Kuester, director of undergraduate studies in economics, said he had his share of ramen noodles and tight budgets when he was a student, so he understands firsthand how hard it can be.

“Struggling with money can cost you time while having to wait for transportation and other things, but it’s a sacrifice you have to make,” Kuester said. “It doesn’t mean it has to be wasted, though. Learn how to make good use of time. Get work done at the library while waiting for transportation. Don’t look at it like a cost — try to manage it and do things you could do while waiting.”

Kuester said there should not be a negative stigma attached to struggling with money, especially when there are so many good people who can help when someone needs a hand.

“It’s unfortunate that people aren’t comfortable about talking about struggling with money,” Kuester said. “I know that there are some people who feel like you have to have a certain brand, a certain look, all of that superficial stuff. It’s not worth worrying about.”

Kuester said college students are most likely going to be in tight situations, but finding a budget and sticking with it can help in the end.

“Find what is a reasonable budget and stick with it,” Kuester said. “Make it strict. If that means never eating out, kind of having to not have the most glamourous meals, that’s what will have to happen to get an education today.”

Trevin Garcia, junior in English, said he has some friends who skip eating dinner so they can make rent. He said he encourages others to talk about poverty instead of avoiding the topic.

“It’s almost a taboo subject to talk about how poor you are or how much help you need,” Garcia said. “It’s that in our culture, it’s a stigma that makes you feel really dirty to admit you’re struggling.”

Garcia said he struggled with finding enough money to come back to K-State next year, but he pooled his resources and is thankful he had others to help him out.

“You have to find people you can be poor with together,” Garcia said. “Pool your resources, help each other get through whatever comes up and it’ll help bring our community to see struggling as not so embarrassing and maybe actually do something about it.”