The student financial crisis impacting Boise State students

Photo by Niamh Brennan

It can be difficult to deal with the financial obstacles of independent living, whether or not you are paying for your tuition. Life can be difficult when you have to balance the demands of being a full-time student while working to make ends meet, especially while living on your own for the first time.

Students at Boise State are collapsing under the demanding financial burden of increasing college fees and the exhausting challenge of balancing work and school, resulting in an unconventional solution to make ends meet — donating their own plasma.

Donating plasma has become a rising trend amongst Boise State students, which is the process where blood is drawn from a donor, then sent through a machine that separates blood from cells, collecting the plasma. The donor’s red blood cells are then returned to the donor, and in exchange the donor receives payment, with new donors earning up to $800, according to BioLife Plasma’s website.

As the population in Idaho increases, so does the cost of living which has resulted in the poverty level hitting 10.7% across the state, according to the U.S Census Bureau. 

Boise State will raise tuition by 7.4% starting in Fall 2024, with increases to tuition starting at an additional $836. According to Boise State’s report on “Changes to Student Fees for FY 2024,” student fees will also be raised by 5%, which may seem like a small increase to some but can be detrimental to other students that are already struggling financially.

This is just the start for changes with Boise State’s new modernized budget that will be initialized in the Fall 2024 semester, and then fully implemented by Fall 2025, according to the Boise State’s Office of Budget and Planning website.

A majority of students are forced to find employment, which has an effect on their academics and mental health.

A lot of students are unable to maintain full-time jobs, so they turn to career services on campus in hopes of finding a livable wage while in school. Yet, those who try to find a job on campus are heavily restricted in the amount they can make.

Even students who try to work start at a low minimum wage of $7.25, which hasn’t been raised in 15 years.  

According to the Boise State Policy manual, student employees are restricted in the number of hours they work during the school year. Full-time students are restricted to working only 30 hours a week, estimating to a total of only $217 a week before taxes.

Makenna Green is a current senior studying health science and works at the Starbucks on campus.

“I definitely do not make enough to survive solely off of my campus job and would need to be full-time to come close to being fully financially independent,” said Green.

Other students like Mikaela Funiciello, a sophomore studying marketing and business management, work two jobs on campus. Funiciello currently works at both the Student Recreation Center and at housing services to maintain income that she said is spent predominantly on groceries alone.

That is why students have resorted to donating their own plasma in exchange for a few hundred bucks to keep them afloat.

Kaidence Smith, a current sophomore studying civil engineering, is one student who has resorted to donating their own plasma in efforts to make ends meet. 

“I am the sole provider for myself in which I pay all my bills and tuition. Because of this I have to work as much as possible which is difficult due to the amount of time my degree (civil engineering) takes. Donating plasma is not an easy or short process. I would not recommend donating plasma to others but you gotta do what you have to do sometimes,” said Smith

Often plasma service locations will promote deals that offer more money in exchange for more frequent visits, resulting in students going bi-weekly to donate. Donating plasma may seem safe and effective, but there are concerns when it comes to frequent donation.

In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, those who frequently donate plasma have significantly lower protein, albumin and blood marker levels. 

Senior Ava Whitehouse donates plasma often in order to pay rent, tuition and try to have spending money. Whitehouse opened up about the frustrations that come with struggling financially while trying to get a degree.

“My weeks are spent going to clinicals, class, work and more that leaves me feeling exhausted and worn out,” said Whitehouse. “When the weekend comes, I don’t really have enough money to go out and let off some steam. Everything I make goes directly back into my tuition and rent.”

Whitehouse is in the nursing program and understands the benefits of helping others through donating plasma, but also feels like students shouldn’t have to do it to survive through college.

“That is why I turned to donating plasma, to give me some extra spending money to have fun on the weekends,” Whitehouse continued. “As a nursing student, I realize what I am doing so frequently may be unhealthy but sometimes there are a limited number of options when it comes to trying to be financially independent.”

Although it may appear radical for students to give their own blood to survive financially through four years of college, at the state of our current minimum wage matched with the rising costs of education and living, it makes sense that students have resorted to giving their own plasma for some pocket money.

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