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The Burden Students Carry
August 22, 2019

The stereotypical image we have of the average college-age person is a student who, outside of classwork and studying has few responsibilities. They might have a part-time job to help cover their bills or even tuition, but a significant portion of their time might go to having fun, time spent with friends, and partying. (For some, perhaps too much partying!) In some visions of this stereotype, the students aren’t paying their own way – they’re partying on their parents’ dime.

Student Responsibilities

However, like most stereotypes, it doesn’t quite fit the reality. The majority of students (58%) work while in college, and 55% are financially independent. Of those who are financially independent, 42% live at or below the poverty line. A third (or 34%) are the first generation in their family to go to college, and 26% are already parents themselves. (Source: AACU) For these students, not only are they managing a full course load, they have significant financial and related responsibilities. Independent students are likely to be spending 20 hours a week caring for dependents (including children or aging family members). (Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research) For these students, responsibilities extend to others besides themselves as well.

Now, if that’s true in America, imagine the case for our students who have been at-risk of trafficking and exploitation due to poverty and similar vulnerabilities. In a survey of students who have recently graduated (1 from informal schooling, 3 from vocational schooling, and 12 from a bachelor’s degree program at a local university), we have found that the majority of these students carry a significant responsibility as well.

Our Students’ Responsibilities

In the survey, they were asked questions about their employment and income status. When asked how many family members rely on their income, 43% responded that 2-3 family members plus themselves relied on their income. And 25% said 4-5 family members plus themselves relied on their income. Thus, for the vast majority of our graduating students, a lot of people are relying on them to help support the family.

Tellingly, also, when asked whether they felt that the people who relied on their income were having their needs met, half of the students responded yes and half responded no.

This paints a vivid picture of children and young adults who, though they themselves rose up in poverty and risk of exploitation, managed to find success and graduate from higher levels of education, including college. And though they’ve succeeded, they cannot rest on their laurels, because family obligations make it so they share whatever they can to support their family’s needs. It’s heroic.

The Effects of Support

The other implication is that when you support a student, benefits radiate outward to the community. There is still struggle and strife, but the stronger a community as a whole grows, the more resilient it becomes in supporting its members and protecting them from trafficking and exploitation. The more students graduate from college, the better their financial situation as a whole, and the less likely their future children will end up trafficked. Your investment today helps not only the child today, but generations into the future.


Have you considered sponsoring a student? How about a cohort? Learn about joining a Freedom Chapter – it’s quick and easy, and starts with as little as $15/month! Click here to get started!