Around 72 million children live in the United States, and 41 percent of them are living in poverty. It’s disturbing mind-boggling that almost half of the children in one of the wealthiest countries of the world are lacking proper shelter, food, and basic necessities.
To think that these inadequacies don’t affect the behavior and academic performance of students is no different than believing the weather won’t affect a garden. This article will explain the massive impact that living in poverty has on academic performance and child development and why educational funding for under-resourced students is so important.
Effects of Poverty on Collegiate Success
Attending college is a juggling act of burdens that vary in rigor and weight, and there are a number of possibilities for why a student may quit before the finish line. When college dropouts were asked why they decided to leave school, financial pressure was the most common culprit. Ironically, the second most frequent answer was an academic disqualification. Coincidence? I think not. If the financial strain didn’t make the less well-off students quit, then academic disqualification would. It’s clear that one feeds the other, and students who are less well off are usually the ones facing the most issues with making the mark.
Students in college are obviously not the only ones facing financial difficulties. Forget the money problems students are dealing with once they’re in college—those just trying to get into college face many fees just with applying. Finding the right school that fits the student’s budget and interests is imperative, according to Authority.org. Many schools will waive the application fee if you apply online, but most schools will have a $50 fee attached to the daunting application process.
Not only that, but all first-year students have to fill out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is a document requiring tax information of the student’s parents. Many parents with lower incomes and less education have difficulty navigating the complex tax jargon used in the application.
The Impact of Poverty on Child Development and Academics
Living in poverty means an extreme lack of resources such as proper nutrition and clean water, shelter, and clothing. Not having these things at a young age has many physical, mental/emotional, and social consequences, all of which strike a blow to students’ academic success.
Malnutrition can stunt a child’s growth immune system. Children without adequate nutrition are likely to have lower brain function and will often be exhausted. Going to school on an empty stomach will often show signs such as sleepiness, lethargy, or irritability, and unfortunately can be seen as laziness or a bad attitude by teachers and classmates.
Mental and Emotional Health
The stress of not knowing when the next meal is coming or how mom and dad are going to keep the lights on is enough to break anyone’s concentration. In spite of their resilience, children are immensely affected by this. Studies show that children living in poverty are 40% more likely to exhibit social, behavioral, and emotional issues when compared to those who are not.
When a low-income student with high math scores has an equal chance of graduating as a rich student with average math scores, it’s obvious that wealth plays a significant role in a student’s success in school. Another side of this is the fact that only around 10% of high school students from low-income households have top math scores, while 48% of upper-class students have high math scores.
Importance of Funding Academic Success for Children
School boards and administration tend to focus on what teachers, counselors, and parents can do to ensure the success of students, but the second that money comes into the conversation, everyone gets real quiet. Why ignore the importance of funding in a child’s education when statistics clearly show its relevance?
There’s nothing wrong with blue-collar work, and many of those workers are well-compensated. However, young people shouldn’t be limited in their work options because of a lack of basic human necessities. By not getting the financial support they need, a young Albert Einstein or Marie Curie could be suppressed into a blue-collar job where they would never be able to leave their mark on the world or make the same impact.
By providing students with the funding they need to get through school, a possible burden from society could be removed since one less person will be a college drop out. Society will be empowered due to the population being more educated and independent—all because they were given a fighting chance when it really counted.