Special Report

How Much College Students Should Set Aside For Groceries This Year in Every State

If you have spent any time grocery shopping in the past year, then you already know that food is getting more expensive. Inflation has been hitting just about everyone’s pocketbooks, and it is especially troublesome for college students. 

The price of going to college has increased dramatically in recent decades. Over the past 50 years, the average cost of tuition has risen at nearly five times the rate of inflation, according to 2020 data from the nonprofit group College Board. And textbooks and other necessary college expenses are not getting any cheaper. (Here are colleges with the biggest tuition hikes.)

On top of that, the price of food has skyrocketed over the past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery prices soared a whopping 13.1% between August 2021 and August 2022, with prices for basic commodities like eggs up 38%. Similarly, the price of flour was up 22.7%, chicken 17.6%, and milk 15.6%. The reasons behind this inflation are manifold, from avian flu in the U.S. affecting eggs to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affecting wheat exports.

The average American spends about $402 per month on groceries, and college students tend to spend about 27% less per month on groceries than the average adult, according to online education publication My eLearning World. Of course, considering that the cost of living is different in each state, a student in California would spend a different amount from a student in Mississippi.

To find the 20 most expensive states for college students to buy groceries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed My eLearning World’s list, Here’s How Much More College Students Will Spend on Groceries This School Year. The site used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the average grocery cost for college students in each state. 

24/7 Wall St. listed additional data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The additional data includes total fall enrollment in each state in degree-granting postsecondary institutions for the 2020 school year, the most recent year available. Two more measures are the average cost, including tuition, required fees, room, and board, for the 2020-2021 school year at four-year private universities and at public institutions for in-state students. The costs listed are prior to student aid. 

On average, based on My eLearning World’s calculations, college students will spend about $294 per month on groceries this year, or $2,352 for a full school year – about $270 more than they spent last year.

Being a college student has never been especially cheap, but with just about all prices — from tuition to housing to groceries — it has never been more expensive. (To help students with some of the costs, here are colleges that promise zero student debt.)

Here’s what college students can expect to pay on groceries this year in every state, from least to most expensive.

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