In the U.S., students are facing increasing loan debt as they discover at the same time that their degrees will earn them less and less. Loan debt topped $1 trillion in 2011, and besides attempts at controlling interest rates of federal loans, Congress has done nothing to address the rising costs of higher education.
In the midst of this hot topic, SNAP, which allows millions of Americans to purchase a necessity of life, food, is set to be reduced by $40 billion in addition to the automatic cuts that will occur in three weeks due to the expiration of a provision in the stimulus bill. SNAP currently feeds one in seven Americans. It has one of the lowest rates of fraud and abuse, and a very high success rate. However, many people currently considered 'poor' probably need nutritional assistance, but are ineligible, and an additional 4 to 6 million people will be kicked off their benefits as a result of these new reforms.
The stereotype of the 'starving college student' is not unfounded. Food costs are on the rise, as are education costs, all at once. At the same time, voices are yelling that the U.S. is not a welfare state, that people are 'personally responsible' to get a job to feed their families, and yet the minimum wage is not a livable wage. Oddly enough, that minimum wage is generally what is paid to college students.
These concerns form a very strange narrative in American society, the praise of hardworking college students, and the glorification of hunger and struggle. 'Hungry people persevere and work hard to lift themselves out of their poverty;' they can somehow do this without the support of the government. But this is also the government that secretly conspires against them. This narrative ignores structural barriers that lock Americans in poverty, that lock college students into debt, and that lock millions into perpetual poverty and hunger. Charities and American voluntarism counter the idea of 'personal responsibility,' but they are no replacement for a system that is supposed to exist for the people.