Effort will help community colleges craft policies around effective data collection and assessment methods to better understand student basic needs insecurity

Efforts are underway to address basic needs insecurity among students

Effort will help community colleges craft policies around effective data collection and assessment methods to better understand student basic needs insecurity

A joint effort between higher education groups aims to address basic needs insecurity for low-income students–many of whom are struggling with pandemic-related worries like housing and health care.

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice launched a new collaboration with education and workforce nonprofit JFF that will accelerate the delivery of emergency aid and other supports for community college students affected by the pandemic. The two organizations will work with JFF’s Student Success Center Network and 52 of its member community colleges in five states to scale best practices in addressing student basic needs insecurity.

“Even as the country emerges into a state of recovery, hundreds of thousands of students from low-income backgrounds are still in a state of deep financial uncertainty and insecurity that threatens to disrupt their college aspirations for good. We can’t allow that to happen,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, president and founder of the Hope Center. “This is about creating a community of practice focused on student basic need security at a pivotal moment for students from low-income backgrounds.”

Recent research from the Hope Center, an action research center focused on addressing college students’ basic needs, including food, housing, and health care, suggests that basic needs insecurity poses a significant completion barrier for students, with disproportionate impacts on Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income students. Nearly three in five students suffered from food insecurity, housing insecurity, and homelessness during the fall 2020 term, but a Hope Center survey of more than 95,000 students in 42 states found that supports available during the pandemic, including emergency aid, went underutilized by the students most in need.

To accelerate the adoption of programs that can strengthen student financial success, the Hope Center will provide technical assistance over the course of the next year to five statewide organizations who are members of JFF’s Student Success Center Network, including:

● The Student Success Center for California Community Colleges

● The North Carolina Student Success Center

● The New York Student Success Center

● The Success Center for Ohio Community Colleges

● The Texas Success Center

Between August 2021 and May 2022, JFF and the Hope Center will work collaboratively with these organizations to surface new insights into approaches that can address student basic-needs insecurity on college campuses.

In addition to scaling best practices in emergency aid programs, the project will help community colleges design effective data collection and assessment methods to better understand student basic needs insecurity and shift policies accordingly. Participating colleges will also implement new outreach programs to ensure that qualifying students can access existing public and campus-based benefits, such as federal nutrition programs, transportation subsidies, and affordable child care benefits.

“Addressing student basic needs is an investment in college completion. That was true before the pandemic, and it’s even more clear now. As they look to the start of another fall term, community colleges are wisely doubling down on investments in emergency aid,” said Ashley Bliss Lima, associate director of community college success at JFF. “This work is about scaling high-impact approaches to emergency student aid that will help extend much-needed relief to community college students across the country.”

The project is funded through a grant awarded by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of a broader initiative focused on emergency aid and pandemic response supported by the foundation. First created in 2012, JFF’s Student Success Network includes more than 500 community colleges that enroll 68 percent of all U.S. community college students, including 58 percent of all Pell Grant recipients at U.S. community colleges.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione