The Intersection of Sense of Belonging and Financial Hardship Among University Students
Social Work Educators’ Response
Keywords:sense of belonging, campus climate, financial hardship, student support, retention, success, socioeconomic status
This study examines the largely unexplored connection between sense of belonging and financial hardship among college students. Previous research indicates that a variety of demographic factors can impact sense of belonging, including ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age. One demographic factor that has not been sufficiently examined within the context of sense of belonging is financial status. This cross-sectional study collected data from 958 students at a single Midwestern university. Approximately half of the student participants reported experiencing financial hardship. Furthermore, students who had experienced financial hardship reported a significantly lower sense of belonging as compared to students who had not experienced financial hardship. Analyses also revealed that even when controlling for other demographic factors, financial hardship remained a significant predictor of students’ sense of belonging. We posit that academic success is connected to both sense of belonging and financial hardship among students, as experiences of financial hardship negatively impact the sense of belonging within university communities. Social work educators are ideally suited to design, implement, and evaluate necessary support services which promote financial wellbeing, and consequently sense of belonging and academic success. As such, social work educators are presented with the opportunity to pivot and embrace new opportunities to serve financially disenfranchised students.
Allen, C. C., & Alleman, N. F. (2019). A private struggle at a private institution: Effects of student hunger on social and academic experiences. Journal of College Student Development, 60(1), 52-69. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2019.0003
Baker, C. N., & Robnett, B. (2012). Race, social support, and college student retention: A case study. Journal of College Student Development, 53(2), 325-335. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2012.0025
Chaplot, P., Cooper, D. M., Johnstone, R., & Karandjeff, K. (2015). Beyond financial aid: How colleges can strengthen the financial stability of low-income students and improve student outcomes. Lumina Foundation. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/83263/BeyondFinancialAid.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Routledge Academic.
Cole, S., Paulson, A., & Shastry, G. K. (2014). Smart money? The effect of education on financial outcomes. Review of Financial Studies, 27(7), 2022-2051.
College and University Food Bank Alliance [CUFBA]. (2020). Who we are.. https://cufba.org/about-us/
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299. https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039
de Heer, B., & Jones, L. (2017). Measuring sexual violence on campus: Climate surveys and vulnerable groups. Journal of School Violence, 16(2), 207-221. https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2017.1284444
Diehl, D., Houseworth, J., & Grier-Reed, T. (2019). Examining the relationship between race and considerations of campus withdrawal. College Student Journal, 53(4), 417-429.
Dubick, J., Mathews, B., & Cady, C. (2016). Hunger on campus: The challenge of food insecurity for college students. https://studentsagainsthunger.org/hunger-on-campus/
Duran, A., Dahl, L. S., Stipeck, C., & Mayhew, M. J. (2020). A critical quantitative analysis of students' sense of belonging: Perspectives on race, generation status, and collegiate environments. Journal of College Student Development, 61(2), 133-153. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2020.0014
El Zein, A., Mathews, A. E., House, L., & Shelnutt, K. P. (2018). Why are hungry college students not seeking help? Predictors of and barriers to using an on-campus food pantry. Nutrients, 10(9), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091163
Ellis, H. (2019). A nontraditional conundrum: The dilemma of nontraditional student attrition in higher education. College Student Journal, 53(1), 24-32.
Feeding America. (2011). Food banks: Hunger’s new staple. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/research/hungers-new-staple/or-hungers-new-staple-executive.pdf
Garcia, H. A., Garza, T., & Yeaton-Hromada, K. (2019). Do we belong? A conceptual model for international students’ sense of belonging in community colleges. Journal of International Students, 9(2), 460-487. http://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v9i2.669
Garvey, J. C., Sanders, L. A., & Flint, M. A. (2017). Generational perceptions of campus climate among LGBTQ undergraduates. Journal of College Student Development, 58(6), 795-817. http://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0065
Goldrick-Rab, S., Baker-Smith, C., Coca, V., Looker, E., Williams, T., & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2019, April 30). College and university basic needs insecurity: A national #RealCollege survey report. https://hope4college.com/college-and-university-basic-needs-insecurity-a-national-realcollege-survey-report/
Goldrick-Rab, S., Cady, C., & Coca, V. (2018). Campus food pantries: Insights from a national survey. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018-CUFBA-Report-web-2.pdf
Goplanan, M., & Brady, S. T. (2020). College students’sense of belonging: A national perspective. Educational Researcher, 49(2), 134-137. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X19897622
Hausmann, L. R., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2017). Sense of belonging as a predictor of intentions to persist among African American and White first-year college students. Research in Higher Education, 48, 803-839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-007-9052-9
Hong, J. S., Woodford, M. R., Long, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2016). Ecological covariates of subtle and blatant heterosexist discrimination among LGBQ college students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(1), 117-131. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0362-5
Hout, M. (2012). Social and economic returns to college education in the United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 379-400. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102503
Hurtado, S., Alvarez, C. L., Guillermo-Wann, C., Cuellar, M., & Arellano, L. (2012). The scholarship on creating and assessing conditions for student success. In J. C. Smart & M. B. Paulsen (Eds.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 41-122). Springer.
Hurtado, S., & Guillermo-Wann, C. (2013). Diverse learning environments: Assessing and creating conditions for student success. Higher Education Research Institute, Final Report to the Ford Foundation. https://www.heri.ucla.edu/ford/DiverseLearningEnvironments.pdf
Hurtado, S., & Ponjuan, L. (2005). Latino educational outcomes and the campus climate. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 4(3), 235-251. https://doi.org/10.1177/1538192705276548
Hurtado, S., & Ruiz, A. (2012). The climate for underrepresented groups and diversity on campus. Higher Education Research Institute, Research Brief. https://heri.ucla.edu/briefs/URMBriefReport.pdf
Hussain, M., & Jones, J. M. (2021). Discrimination, diversity, and sense of belonging: Experiences of students of color. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 14(1), 63-71. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000117
IBM Knowledge Center (2021). KMO and Bartlett’s Test. IBM Knowledge Center, SPSS Statistics 26. https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/SSLVMB_26.0.0/statistics_casestudies_project_ddita/spss/tutorials/fac_telco_kmo_01.html
Johnson, D. R., Soldner, M., Leonard, J. B., Alvarez, P., Inkelas, K. K., Rowan-Kenyon, H., & Longerbeam, S. D. (2007). Examining sense of belonging among first-year undergraduates from different racial/ethnic groups. Journal of College Student Development, 48, 525‑542. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2007.0054
Johnson, D., Wasserman, T., Yildirim, N., & Yonai, B. (2014). Examining the effects of stress and campus climate on the persistence of students of color and white students: An application of Bean and Eaton's Psychological Model of Retention. Research in Higher Education, 55(1), 75-100. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-013-9304-9
Kellerman, J., & Krauss, D., (2018). Perceived social support and suicide-related depression symptom clusters among queer college students. [Senior Thesis, Claremont McKenna College]. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/1923
Krueger, P. M., Dehry, I. A., & Chang, V. W. (2019). The economic value of education for longer lives and reduced disability. The Milbank Quarterly, 97(1), 48-73. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0009.12372
Macke, C., Averitt, J., & Ozaki, R. (2020). Food insecure students’ perceptions of campus climate: Implications for social work educators and practitioners. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 17(I2), 237-252. https://doi.org/10.1080/26408066.2020.1723771
McGivney, V. (2004) Understanding persistence in adult learning. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 19(1), 33-46, https://doi.org/10.1080/0268051042000177836
McKinney, L., Gross, J. P., & Burridge, A. B. (2014). How community colleges can help prevent financial hardship among student borrowers. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(2-3), 270-274. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2014.851984
Means, D. R., Bryant, I., Crutchfield, S., Jones, M., & Wade, R. (2016). Building bridges: College to career for underrepresented college students. Journal of College Student Development, 57(1), 95-98. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2016.0002
Means, D. R., & Pyne, K. B. (2017). Finding my way: Perceptions of institutional support and belonging in low-income, first-generation, first-year college students. Journal of College Student Development, 58(6), 907-924. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0071
Mishra, S. (2020). Social networks, social capital, social support and academic success in higher education: A systemic review with special focus on “underrepresented” students. Educational Research Review, 29, 1-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2019.100307
Morris, L. M., Smith, S., Davis, J., & Null, D. B. (2016). The prevalence of food security and insecurity among Illinois University students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 48(6), 376–382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2016.03.013
Museus, S. D. (2008). The role of ethnic student organizations in fostering African American and Asian American students’ cultural adjustment and membership at predominantly White institutions. Journal of College Student Development, 49(6), 568-586. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0039
Museus, S.D., Yi, V., & Saelua, N. (2018). How culturally engaging campus environments influence sense of belonging in college: An examination of differences between white students and students of color. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 11(4), 467-483. http://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000069
National Association of Social Workers. (2021). Code of ethics. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. (2018). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups 2018 (NCES 2019-038). U. S. Department of Education, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019038.pdf
NCES. (2019). Digest of education statistics 2019. (Integrated Postsecondary Education System, Spring 2018). https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_csb.asp [updated annually, find archival data at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/]
Nguyen, D. J., & Herron, A. (2021). Keeping up with the Joneses or feeling priced out?: Exploring how low-income students’ financial position shapes sense of belonging. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 14(3), 429-440. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000191
Phillips, A. (2019). The quest for diversity in higher education. Pepperdine Policy Review, 11, 1-28. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1174&context=ppr
Rouse, C. E. (2017). The economics of education and policy: Ideas for a principles course. The Journal of Economic Education, 48(3), 229-237. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220485.2017.1320611
Royse, D. (2020). Research methods in social work (8th ed.). Cognella, Inc.
Schroeder, K., & Smaldone, A. (2015). Food insecurity: A concept analysis. Nursing Forum, 50(4), 274-284. https://doi.org/10.1111/nuf.12118
Shim, S., Serido, J., Bosch, L., & Tang, C. (2013). Financial identity-processing styles among young adults: A longitudinal study of socialization factors and consequences for financial capabilities. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 47(1), 128-152. https://doi.org/10.1111/joca.12002
Silver Wolf, D. A. P., Perkins, J., Butler-Barnes, S., & Walker, T. A., Jr. (2017). Social belonging and college retention: Results from a quasi-experiemental pilot study. Journal of College Student Development, 58(5), 777-782. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0060
Simi, D., & Matusitz, J. (2016). Ageism against older U.S. college students: A view from social closure theory. Interchange, 47(4), 391-408. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10780-016-9286-6
Soria, K. M., & Stebleton, M. J. (2013). Social capital, academic engagement, and sense of belonging among working-class college students. College Students Affairs Journal, 31(2), 139-153. https://www.proquest.com/openview/decb2cd1d7713fec3ceac4256f589779/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=47847
Stebleton, M. J., Soria, K. M., & Huesman Jr, R. L. (2014a). First-generation students’ sense of belonging, mental health, and use of counseling services at public research universities. Journal of College Counseling, 17(1), 6-20. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2014.00044.x
Stebleton, M. J., Soria, K. M., Huesman Jr, R. L., & Torres, V. (2014b). Recent immigrant students at research universities: The relationship between campus climate and sense of belonging. Journal of College Student Development, 55(2), 196-202. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2014.0019
Strayhorn, T. L. (2019). College students' sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315297293
Tinajero, C., Martinez-Lopez, C., Rodriguez, M. S., & Paramo, M. F. (2020). Perceived social support as a predictor of academic success in Spanish university students. Annals of Psychology, 36(1), 134-142. https://doi.org/10.6018/analesps.344141
United States Department of Education [US DOE]. (2016a). Advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education: Key data highlights focusing on race and ethnicity and promising practices. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf
US DOE. (2016b). Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/resources/advancing-diversity-and-inclusion-higher-education
United States Government Accountability Office. (2020, April). Higher education: Approaches and strategies used in college campus surveys on sexual violence. https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/706280.pdf
Vaccaro, A. (2012). Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. In G. R. Albin & L. A. Gohn (Eds.), Understanding college student subpopulations: A guide for student affairs professionals (1st ed., pp. 349-386). National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
Vaccaro, A., & Newman, B. M. (2016). Development of a sense of belonging for privileged and minoritized students: An emergent model. Journal of College Student Development, 67(8), 925-942. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2016.0091
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 82-96. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.206
Wittiven, D., & Attewell, P. (2017). Family background and earnings inequality among college graduates. Social Forces, 95(4), 1539-1576. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sow109
Wittiven, D., & Attewell, P. (2020). Reconsidering the ‘meritocratic power of a college degree.’ Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 66, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rssm.2020.100479
Yee, A. (2016). The unwritten rules of engagement: Social class differences in undergraduates’ academic strategies. Journal of Higher Education, 87, 831-858. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2016.11780889
Copyright (c) 2022 Jessica Averitt Taylor, Caroline Macke, Reiko Ozaki, Megan Lindsey, Angela Anderson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.