Graduate Students Have no Emergency Resources at Sac State

In this past 2016–2017 school year, I was a first year graduate student. As an undergraduate student at CSUS, I received enough financial aid to independently care for myself without outside assistance. This past school year, I quit my full time job to come to Sac State and decided to work part time to support myself and give myself enough time to commit to my master’s program.

For the first time, I was going to school full time and working two minimum wage jobs on campus. With the hours I worked, I still worked less than part time, which means I couldn’t even qualify for food stamps. Even with financial aid, loans, a scholarship, and two jobs, I was just barely scraping by.

At the end of the semester, I learned that one of my jobs would not have the budget to support students working over the summer. For the first time in my life, I was afraid was going to be homeless. Like many low income first generation students, I have no financial or housing support from my family because they themselves are economically unstable. I was told from a friend that Sac State has emergency housing and emergency funds that students could take advantage of. So I reached out to the campus for some sort of advice or support, hoping I would have the chance to use these resources. It came to a huge shock to me to learn that not only can graduate students NOT use these resources, the campus has no emergency support for graduate students who have some kind of housing or financial crisis. All emergency resources they have are for undergraduate students. Even worse, they know that the city of Sacramento has no immediate resources either.

This came as a huge blow to my trust in this institution. As a marginalized student, my trust in Sac State has always been slightly damaged due to experiences with microaggressions and the quality of campus resources (if they exist) for marginalized students. If it wasn’t for my department, which has been incredibly supportive and accommodating, I would feel completely devalued and ignored at Sac State.

We live in a time when community colleges have incredible amounts of resources for their students. There is no excuse why Sac State can’t do the same-for ALL students. Sac State JUST got an emergency housing program and an on campus food pantry which are all steps in the right direction. However, it’s time that we realize that most students are not living the traditional college experience. Not only do we barely graduate in 4 years (a reality that the state and federal government is aware of), many of us are housing and food insecure, especially at the graduate level. It is well known by both students and educators that there is a huge lack of financial support for graduate students in master’s programs.

So why don’t we support grad students? That’s something I would like to know too.

But I know that this experience has motivated me even more to fight for quality, free education. Students shouldn’t have to go poor to get an education. Students shouldn’t have to be homeless to get an education. Students shouldn’t have to choose between food and rent to get an education. You can’t value education and simultaneous devalue students. CSUS needs to do better.