Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

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David vs. Goliath: Economically being a Student in 2023

A+women+holding+a+bag+of+groceries+in+front+of+the+WSU+sign+by+Phelps+Hall.+%E2%80%9CWith+rising+cost+of+food%2C%0Asome+students+are+finding+it+hard+to+obtain+the+necessary+sustenance+they+need.%E2%80%9D
Jiovani Bermudez
A women holding a bag of groceries in front of the WSU sign by Phelps Hall. “With rising cost of food, some students are finding it hard to obtain the necessary sustenance they need.”

Many of us come to college with hopes of a new experience and dreams of a better life. The expectation for us is a new experience of independence and discovery both in ourselves and of the world. This dream that many students had has quickly turned into a nightmare of financial burden and stress with Winona State University tuition increasing along with costs on food, utilities, and housing.

A survey of 481 students done by the WSU Financial Aid found 35.9% consider financial worries as “sometimes stressful” while 21.1% found them as “often stressful”. A 2023 Boynton survey conducted at WSU found out of 619 students 22.5% reported some level of credit card debt with 29.7% of them reporting a debt of $3000 or more. The Consumer Price Index reported food costs have increased by 4.9% between July 2022 and July 2023 predictions of a 2.8% increase by 2024. Winona State Tuition cost has increased 3.24% since the 2021-2022 school year with room and board cost increasing by 3.22%.

These financial burdens have made themselves apparent for the average individual living their daily life and this is reflected in the students at Winona State. An anonymous 2nd year Special Education major shared their reaction to receiving their first-year tuition.

“My heart dropped so much…I hear stories and stories of how people are in debt and how my parents are paying off all of it…It wasn’t until recently they paid it off.” They said,

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The student has decided to move off campus starting this semester, a decision that allowed them to avoid the extra expense of room and board. Despite the lower cost of living off campus the student has shared other struggles that have resulted from the decision.

“I’m lucky to have this month’s rent…It’s hard to find a good paying job with flexible hours.” They shared.

The student has reported having immense stress and sleepless nights partially due to the financial struggles they have. They confirm living off campus saved them money but at the cost of being concerned they will not have food or may lose their home. These thoughts have gone as far as making them question if they can remain at Winona State. To them, independence came with some new freedoms and experience but at a much greater cost. When questioned on their knowledge of the financial assistance or living assistance at Winona State they claimed they were not sure how to obtain scholarships or assistance.

“I don’t know where to go or who to go to where I’d be comfortable to share this.”

This student’s story is not unique as there are several resources at Winona State dedicated to helping students yet several students who need them either are unaware or choose not to use them. Richard Kotovich, an advisor at Trio, a federal grant program dedicated to helping 1st generation students, recipients of the Pell Grant, and Access Service Students, affirmed how common the student struggle with financial issues. When asked if financial concerns were common with the students he assists he responded,

“Without a doubt, there’s a lot of challenges that come for students…the financial concerns are honestly the most frustrating.”

Kotovich would go on to explain how in his career approximately 1-2 students he assists must leave Winona State due to financial troubles each semester.

“It’s very heartbreaking to see a student who can’t continue that has a wonderful gift…but they have to take a semester off or something because they don’t know how they or their family is going to pay.” He said.

There is no shortage of resources for students who are struggling on campus yet there seems to be a growing stigma. Aurea Osgood runs the Warrior Cupboard, a program started in 2017 to assist students with obtaining the food they need. Osgood has made several attempts to make the Cupboard known to the student population. She explained her several attempts to make the Cupboard known to the student populous. She had posters put up across campus, mass emails sent out, and encouraged professors to include it in their syllabuses. The Cupboard is open to all students of any background. When given all these efforts the Cupboard still didn’t seem well known to the student populous and scarcely used Osgood responded,

“People are embarrassed they can’t do it on their own.” Osgood said,

This idea was affirmed by Kotovich and the anonymous student.

“It’s not a comfortable topic…The public story they [students who leave for financial reasons] will share is “I am transferring schools “”It’s not a good fit “”I think I like this school closer to home.” Kotovich said.

Despite the numerous resources for struggling students one major issue seems to be consistent among them all, a lack of funding. Too much use of the resources could lead to a strain as they attempt to take a small resource to many who need it. Osgood has acknowledged this saying,

“We don’t have enough food to feed everyone…I will work my butt off to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Osgood’s passion for assisting the students is shared by her colleague Karen Stotz a Trio Advisor and Basic Needs Coordinator for Winona State. Stotz works to help students receive support for any basic need. This can include food, housing, mental health and more. One example is a student who was left unable to transport to Winona State. After 24 hours Stotz was able to provide them with the necessary transport so they could pursue their education. She made a point to provide several resources for students.

“If you go to winona.edu and you just type in basic needs. We have one for the Winona campus and one for the Rochester campus.” She spoke.

The Winona Basic Needs site is separated into several categories for a student’s respective needs and includes contact to United Way 2-1-1 and organizations that provide basic needs to people across Minnesota. Stotz final thoughts were a response to the hesitancy of the students on campus,

“We really want to see our warriors succeed and we welcome you with open arms.”

Everyone has provided their input on how to resolve the growing struggles of finances. Though some possible solutions like higher investment in education and a higher minimum wage are outside of a student’s control, a student can budget carefully, live off campus, and avoid multiple changes in their major. Above all else they are encouraged to see their time at university through as the cost of an education is greatly outweighed by the benefits of pursuing their dreams and achieving employment with a degree.

Link to the Basic Needs Page: https://www.winona.edu/current-students/basic-needs-winona/

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About the Contributor
Jiovani Bermudez, Photographer

Jiovani A. Bermudez is a photographer and features reporter for The Winonan as of late spring 2022. He is currently in his fourth year at Winona State University majoring in mass communication with a focus on creative digital media.

Besides photography for The Winonan, Bermudez is currently involved with the university's student radio KQAL as a production assistant and hosting "Jazz Cafe" on Fridays from 9 AM - 12 PM. He also a member of the Dev Team for Cubeify games.

In his free time, Bermudez enjoys playing a multitude of games, biking around Winona, writing, and engaging in discussion about poetry, philosophy, politics, mythology, and games.

Bermudez hopes to make games to share the stories he has written in his favorite medium of entertainment. He also hopes to put his efforts towards voice work.

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