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Short Title

Examining and Enhancing Campus Climate for Affordability

Abstract

This study examined undergraduate students’ perceptions of non-academic spending in college and how they navigated these expenses. Using a mixed-methods study at a public comprehensive university in the southeastern United States, we conceptualized these perceptions as a central component of campus climate for affordability in college. Findings demonstrated that campus policies, practices, and spaces facilitated non-academic spending and exacerbated students’ perceptions that college is unaffordable. Non-academic and social costs were more expensive than students anticipated, and many students struggled to manage their money and cover these costs. Students shared a range of strategies to navigate non-academic expenses, from opting out of social activities to forgoing savings and loan payments. These findings draw attention to policies and practices in higher education that problematize institutions’ commitment to affordability.

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