Written by Mike Martin
A dysfunctional situation cries out for alternatives: increase affordable housing; decrease tuition and fees.
COLUMBIA, 5/2/12 (Editorial) -- Serious cognitive dissonance is what I feel about a new food pantry on the Mizzou campus, in the midst of a crushing $1 trillion in student debt financing sky-high tuition, and over-priced new student apartments on virtually every CoMo corner.
Nearly 1,000 student apartment units are rising downtown that rent for hundreds of dollars PER BED while students are apparently going hungry. On top of that, high-ranking college administrators haven't seen a tuition hike they don't like, or a pay raise they won't take.
This situation is so screwed up it almost feels like something dystopic out of -- The Hunger Games.
"We know there is a need, not just with individual students, but also among married students and foreign students who have enough to cover books and tuition and rooming but have little to eat," Food Bank director Peggy Kirkpatrick said in a recent interview.
I own rental properties in town, and these student rents are outrageous. Even worse: so much is funded by rising student debt. Private developers won't lower their rents, but City Hall could stop paying lip service to affordable housing. And Mizzou could lower tuition.
Instead, local non-profit agencies are filling a familiar role, helping subsidize planning and policy mistakes.
Public housing loomed large after local business and political leaders expropriated land from the black community during so-called "urban renewal," forcing generations into the ranks of the low-income. High taxes, poor infrastructure, a nagging crime problem, and lack of meaningful, publicly-funded social services force more and more people into the arms of local charities.
If students are hungry, lower their ridiculous rents AND their outrageous tuitions. Social service directors should raise this hue and cry. Just rushing in with aid enables the situation to worsen. Their moral authority on these issues is sorely needed -- but notably absent.