"The Freshman 15" is an expression commonly used that refers to the weight often gained during a student's first year at college. However, for some of Illinois' college students this euphemism could not be farther from the truth.
According to a recent article in USA Today, college-age students in Illinois have seen a dramatic increase in their need for food stamps. An analysis of Current Population Surveys by Philip Trostel, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine, revealed that the number of students ages 19 to 24 receiving food stamps and enrolled in schools -- including high schools, professional schools and universities -- more than doubled from 2001 through 2010: "In 2001, 5.4 percent of students enrolled in school ages 19 to 24 received SNAP, whereas in 2010, 12.6 percent of students in the same age group were SNAP recipients."
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In Illinois if a college student wants to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, they must work 20 hours a week, often resulting in a difficult choice between the demands of balancing academic achievement and food on the table.
Current legislation sponsored by State Senator Jim Oberweis will challenge the ability of these aspiring students to move beyond poverty. His proposed amendment to Senate Bill 2004, would hike the state's minimum wage for those over 26, but legislate that the minimum wage for workers between the ages of 18 and 26 would stay at the current rate of $8.25 an hour and for those under 18, at $7.75 an hour.
As escalating tuition increases the cost of a higher education, Illinois must support its college students by ensuring a fair and equitable hourly wage. Let's not force Illinois' brightest to have to choose between academic scholarship and having a meal.
Corinne M. Pierog