USC students in the Russell House student union (Photos by Ren Pusher/Carolina News and Reporter)

The high cost of living has made it harder for working college students to manage work, school and a social life. 

“Once inflation comes down, prices aren’t going up anymore,” said Dr. William Hauk, associate professor of economics at the University of South Carolina. “But it doesn’t mean that the prices are going down. … So I think for college students, one of the big things that you’re going to see are probably increases in rent and increases in food.”

About 55% of college students in the United States said inflation made their mental health worse, according to a survey taken in January 2023, by Studocu, a student help and advice website.

“It’s just very stressful,” said Rylee Clifford, a junior at USC. “It causes a lot of anxiety never knowing if you’re going to be able to pay your rent or not.” 

It’s hard to balance being a student and a full time waitress, Clifford said. Her income depends on tips she earns. And it determines how easily she is able to pay her bills.

“I would say it’s definitely difficult at times, especially being a college student trying to like balance work and school life to make enough money in order to live but then also, like, focus on school,” said Mackenzie Manderscheid, a senior at USC and a medical assistant. I’m just super busy all the time and more stressed. Definitely don’t get that much sleep, that’s for sure. Especially, like, a bio major. So it’s not exactly easy.”

From January 2023 to January 2024, the cost of groceries, increased 1.2 percentage points, and rent increased by 6.1 percentage points, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I realized that I couldn’t work part-time because of how inflation was affecting me,” said Nakebria Murray, a sophomore at Allen University and a waitress.  “So I had to move to being an online student, getting more time throughout my week (to work). I’ll work before shifts, and I’ll come home and do my homework and catch up on what I missed. That way, I don’t have to physically go to a class. I can work to get the money that I need to survive.”

Murray said inflation rates increased apartment prices, resulting in her mother having to help her pay her rent. 

In 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects caused the United States to experience a spike in inflation, according to the Census Bureau.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor shortages, supply chain disruption, the energy crisis, higher wages and more demand for food all contributed to the high rate of inflation. 

“The good news is that over time, people’s wages and so forth tend to catch up with those higher price levels,” USC’s Hauk said. “But it could be kind of a painful adjustment in the meantime.”

USC students can use their Carolina Cash card at Food Lion

Reza Aldubaisy and Abdulaziz Alfagiri at the Founder’s ATM near the Welsh Humanities Building on USC’s campus

Rivers Edge at Carolina Stadium in Columbia and Cayce Cove Apartments are popular with students.

Majority of the residents at College Town on the River in West Columbia are USC students.