A Central Valley student received a Cal Grant for school but said the real struggle is just affording to live day to day. An Inland Empire student who returned to college for a better life said they are unwilling to buy books over food for their family, so the debt keeps growing. A Long Beach student has a minimum wage job that doesn’t cover costs, so meals are skipped and replaced with Minute Maid and chips.

These student experiences are among the 15,000 represented in the recent Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS) conducted by the California Student Aid Commission in partnership with research firm Mathematica and funder College Futures Foundation. Students across five higher education segments were surveyed, arming the commission with fresh data by region, race, ethnicity and age to better inform the state’s financial aid body in serving the growing and changing needs of the student population.

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