Katelyn Counts arrived at UNR in 2020, just as COVID restrictions had eased enough for in-person instruction to at least partially return.
Still, it was a difficult transition. With no vaccines available, the pandemic shuttered much of the normal college experience — most of her classes were still largely online, club activities were limited and social events were held at one’s own peril. She also was coming from out-of-state, unsure of how best to handle a hunt for housing, let alone affordable housing in a market with prices that have only climbed upward.
Less than two years later, she will be gone. By this summer, she’ll be back home in Sacramento, where she can live and go to school with friends, all while paying less than half her current rent bill.
“I had been thinking about going home, and I was like, ‘No, you’re gonna be great,” Counts said. “This whole housing stuff just kind of ruined it.”
As students at every level know well, the cost of college is not just tuition and fees and books. It’s also housing and food, utilities and transportation, adding up to thousands — often tens of thousands — in expenses that must be covered by a varied mix of part-time jobs and, at the graduate level, graduate assistantships.
The trope of the “broke college student” is not cliche, but rather a genuine struggle for thousands of Nevada students who have increasingly sought help from school-sponsored food pantries to help offset rising rents.
It is an issue that’s become acute for some international students, who must weigh the struggle for financial security here against the possibility of better prospects — and the security of family — back home.
And it is an issue that comes with few easy answers, as the government purse strings that could increase student incomes have themselves been cinched tight amid a pandemic and broader economic worries that have not ebbed after years of a “new normal.”
Nicole Thomas is the president of UNLV’s Graduate and Professional Student Association, a position from which she’s been able to see her peers struggle with cost issues firsthand. That includes one fellow Ph.D. candidate who accumulated a mountain of debt before she ever received a graduate assistantship.
“Without any state assistance, she’s looking at about $100,000 in debt, because she took out loans to pay for a house, she took out loans to pay for her car,” Thomas said.
And in what she called a “problem across the nation,” Thomas said many graduate students have income only from graduate assistantships — part-time teaching and research jobs through programs run by the university — that are squeezed tighter with every passing year. </…….