Baker-Smith, Christine, V. Coca, E. Looker, S. Goldrick-Rab. Guide to Assessing Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education. Fall 2019. The Hope Center. https://hope4college.com/guide-to-assessing-basic-needs-insecurity-in-higher-education-2/
Basic needs security is a critical component of collegiate success, one discounted by high school grades and standardized test scores. If a student has not eaten or slept enough the night before a class or an exam, they can have difficulty mastering the material or performing well. Assessing food and housing insecurity among students may help answer questions such as: How many students could benefit from additional resources like campus food pantries, emergency aid, or crisis housing? Which types of students ought to be flagged for additional outreach by early alert systems? To what extent should the security of students’ basic needs become a campus priority? This guide outlines how to conduct your own survey to assess basic needs security at your institution.
Clay, J.R. and J.L. Valentine (September 2021). “Impact of Transportation Supports on Students’ Academic Outcomes: A Quasi-Experimental Study of the U-Pass at Rio Hondo College.” https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/RioHondoReport_FINAL.pdf
For many students, transportation presents a barrier to college completion. In 2020–21, the average commuter student could expect to spend nearly one-fifth of their total living expenses on transportation costs. Transportation is especially crucial for community college students, nearly all of whom commute. While 28% of community colleges nationwide offer on-campus housing, only 1% of community college students reside on campus. This brief provides results from a quasi-experimental study on the impact of transportation supports on short- and longer-term academic outcomes for community college students at Rio Hondo College.
Community College League of California (May 2021). Affordability, Food, and Housing: Access Task Force: Addressing Affordable Transportation Needs. Sacramento, California.
Free full-text link to report: https://ccleague.org/sites/default/files/cclc_transportation-report_2021.pdf
Transportation challenges confronting community college students are often overlooked when compared to the daunting needs of housing and food insecurity. Yet transportation still ranks high as a basic student need, and especially in California because of inadequate public transportation options, the high cost of car maintenance, gas, parking, the long distances required of students commuting to rural colleges, and traffic in urban and suburban communities. For years the cost of transportation or access to reliable transportation has been identified as a barrier to student retention and success.
Significant factors cited include:
• Access to a reliable car
• Access to good public transportation
• Cost of parking and parking fees
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) estimates that the average full-time community college student spends $1,760 per year on transportation, which exceeds students’ costs at private and four-year institutions. The higher expense is due primarily to the lack of student housing availability and reliance on commuting to college while juggling the demands of work and family responsibilities. In California, transportation costs match or exceed the cost of annual tuition for a full-time student. In a 2016 report on college’s true cost, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) surveyed over 12,000 California community college students who identified transportation as a significant barrier to attending college full-time.2 The cost of gas or public transportation contributed to the difficult choices students had to make regarding staying in college, taking fewer classes, and working full- or part-time to make ends meet.
Dahl, S., Strayhorn, T., Reid, M. Jr, Coca, V., & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2022, January). Basic needs insecurity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A #RealCollegeHBCU report. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and the Center for the Study of HBCUs. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/RCHBCU_FINAL.pdf
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established primarily in the post-Civil War era to meet the educational needs of Black Americans.1 They provide pathways to upward social mobility and have a long-standing commitment to promoting both academic success and students’ health and well-being.2 But persistent funding inequities at both the state and federal level actively undermine those commitments and leave the sector particularly vulnerable during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Goldrick-Rab, Sara. “Beyond the Food Pantry: Spreading the Word – Supporting Students’ Basic Needs with a Syllabus Statement and Welcome Survey.” The Hope Center: For College, Community, and Justice. 9 December 2020. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/BTFP_SyllabusStatement_WelcomeSurvey.pdf
Goldrick-Rab, S., V. Coca, J. Gill, E. Looker (2022). Self-reported COVID-19 infection and implications for mental health and food insecurity among American college students. PNAS Vol 119, Issue 7. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2111787119
While the COVID-19 pandemic affected mental health and increased food insecurity across the general population, less is known about the virus’s impact on college students. A fall 2020 survey of more than 100,000 students at 202 colleges and universities in 42 states reveals sociodemographic variation in self-reported infections, as well as associations between self-reported infection and food insecurity and mental health. We find that 7% of students self-reported a COVID-19 infection, with sizable differences by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parenting status, and student athlete status. Students who self-reported COVID-19 infections were more likely to experience food insecurity, anxiety, and depression. Implications for higher education institutions, policy makers, and students are discussed.
Hallett, Ronald E. and R. Crutchfield. “Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Research, Policy, and Practice.” ASHE Higher Education Report Volume 43, Issue 6, 20 December 2017. https://doi.org/10.1002/aehe.20122
Homelessness and housing insecurity influence students attending postsecondary institutions across the United States. An emerging body of research demonstrates that housing insecurity likely affects a significant number of college students…The review of research unpacks the multiple forms of homelessness and how they influence students. An important aspect of understanding how students experience homelessness in higher education is breaking stereotypical presumptions. In doing so, the scope of the issue becomes more evidence as well as increasing the urgency for addressing this issue.
Hallet, R. E., & Freas, A. (2017). Community college students’ experiences with homelessness and housing insecurity. Community College Journal of Research and Practice.
Citation/Abstract Retrieved from Taylor Francis: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10668926.2017.1356764
The goal of this study is to understand how students experiencing homelessness experience community college. In particular, the authors focus on the multifaceted traumas that negatively impact their educational engagement and persistence. The authors conducted a life history with one student experiencing homelessness on a community college campus. Based upon the emerging themes, interviews lasting approximately 60 minutes were conducted with an additional six students experiencing homelessness at the same college. Homelessness creates significant barriers for students. Residential insecurity often forces students to prioritize meeting basic needs over educational engagement. The participants consistently lived on the brink of residential crisis, which took an emotional toll. However, the stories emerging from this study demonstrate how important the participants felt postsecondary education was. They clearly connected their long-term stability to completing community college and transferring to a four-year institution. Unfortunately, their residential situations negatively impacted their ability to persist. Based upon the student experiences, the authors recommend more integrated services on community college campuses. The student narratives illustrate several important themes that have the potential to inform both research and practice. The participants viewed postsecondary education as a pathway to future stability. However, they experienced multifaceted and enduring trauma. The chaos of their residential insecurity resulted in constantly living at the brink of crisis. These students illustrate the need for integrated services at community colleges to support students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
Kienzl, G., Hu, P., Caccavella, A., & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2022, January). Parenting while in college: Racial disparities in basic needs insecurity during the pandemic. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/parenting_students_brief.pdf
Roughly one-in-five college students provide primary care to at least one child while pursuing a higher education credential. Parenting students show very strong commitments to education and excel at higher rates than other students when placed on a level playing field. The economic and social returns on their education are particularly strong, accruing across generations.This brief reveals four untold lessons affecting parenting students, drawing on a nationwide survey of college students fielded fall 2020 and completed by 32,560 students who are parents. Through students’ reporting of their lived experience disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, and cohabitation status, we found:
- Asian, Black & Latinx parenting students suffer extremely high rates of basic needs insecurity with deleterious effects on their young children; and
- Nearly all single Black and Latinx students with young children endure basic needs insecurity; and
- Black fathers are struggling significantly, and not getting adequate attention or support.
O’Brien, S. Hungry to Learn (2020). Free Documentary film.
O’Brien and her team followed four college students facing the hard choice of paying for college or paying for food and housing. She discovered that an astounding 45 percent of college students are struggling with hunger. In the article below, O’Brien reports on how the hunger crisis is escalating this fall as most campuses open remotely because of COVID-19, leaving financially struggling students with no place to live or eat.
After years of being ignored, students experiencing food insecurity are finally taken seriously in Soledad O’Brien’s important new documentary Hungry to Learn. It’s a critical investigation into what students need now to succeed. Everyone who cares about college, works in a college, or is committed to America’s economic recovery should view this documentary and commit to action. Given the current health and economic crisis, there’s never been a more important time.
Patel, Vimal and Kelly Field. 2020. Vulnerable Students: Creating a Covid-Era Safety Net. Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.csuci.edu/news/releases/documents/safety-net-report.pdf
The Chronicle of Higher Education has released “Vulnerable Students: Creating the Covid-era Safety Net,” a comprehensive report that examines what colleges are doing to support the students most affected during this crisis. From ensuring students have the technology they need and continuing services like drive-through food pantries and virtual mental health support, the report takes a close look at what successful institutions have implemented to ensure their students stay in school and ultimately, graduate. The report features a ‘Spotlight on Latinx Students,’ highlighting CSUCI and our efforts to move the student community online when the switch was made to virtual instruction and operations. Keeping students engaged and focused on their goal of obtaining a college degree is key to seeing them through to graduation. Peer Mentor Ambassadors, along with the University’s staff, support students and help them see the long-term benefits of having a college degree.
Umaña, P. and N.L. Hacker (2021). Beyond the Food Pantry: How to Form a Campus Basic Needs Task Force. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/BFP_TaskForce.pdf
In the fall 2020 semester, nearly three in five college students experienced basic needs insecurity.
Despite the significant need for support, over half (52%) of students did not apply for help, because they didn’t know how. Many students still don’t know help is available. Faculty and staff that want to assist students don’t always know how, or where to send them. Even though many colleges and universities have established basic needs supports, there’s still a massive gap between the number of students with basic needs insecurity and those who utilize support services. One person or office can’t address the utilization gap. Campus communities can come together as a task force to create an ecosystem to spread information and support students. A good ecosystem allows key players to have a voice in designing strategies to bring solutions to students. It also lets advocacy influence the implementation of institutional policies and practices to meet students’ basic needs. Ultimately, an ecosystem of support helps students thrive and develop a higher sense of belonging. This guide provides insights and recommendations for practitioners on how to build and engage a basic needs task force to strengthen students’ ecosystem of supports and advance systemic change.
Verschelden, Cia. Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization (2017). This text forms an excellent starting point for community college individuals and institutions because it offers rationale for trauma informed community college as well as a lens for best practices. Verschelden uses the non-pathologizing, non-medical frame of “cognitive bandwidth” to describe ways in which a student’s cognitive availability can be “sapped” or “increased”. Systemic inequality, racism, homophobia, and stereotype threat along with basic needs insecurities represent factors that sap or take away from the cognitive resources a student has to pursue academics. There are ways in which post-secondary institutions can restore or increase cognitive bandwidth by calibrating policies and practices aware and responsive to adverse dynamics that sap including trauma informed pedagogy and practices.
Note: Bandwidth Recovery offers an excellent introduction to trauma informed higher education, and especially community colleges, and would be a great choice for a book group as campuses begin to consider trauma informed. The concept of “cognitive bandwidth” makes for a very generative, non-pathologizing, non-clinical conceptual tool describing factors that adversely impact academic resilience as well as how colleges can positively increase and support the cognitive resources students bring to their work.
Verschelden also offers training: https://bandwidthrecovery.org/
Warnecke, A. and R. Lewine. “First Semester Academic Functioning of College Students: The Role of Stressful and Traumatic Life Events.” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 13, No. 2, Article 8, May 2019.
Abstract/Full-Text Retrieved from Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1884&context=ij-sotl
The present study sought to better understand the role of stress and trauma history and resiliency among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and their college academic outcomes. Self-reported history of stressful and traumatic life events, resilience, and demographic factors were collected at orientation for 54“poor” students as determined by Federal standards. Academic record information was collected at the end of the first semester. The study sample was similar to other students in terms of event exposure, self-reported mental health symptoms, and resilience. Event exposure significantly correlated with course withdrawals, low grades (Fs and Ds), and mean grade point average.. This research has implications for educators, mental health professionals, and college administrators.
Waters-Bailey, M.S. McGraw, and J. Barr. “Serving the Whole Student: Addressing Nonacademic Barriers Facing Rural Community College Students.” New Directions for Community Colleges 2019 (187): 83-93. Doi: 10.1002/cc20372
Citation/Abstract Retrieved from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335643697_Serving_the_Whole_Student_Addressing_Nonacademic_Barriers_Facing_Rural_Community_College_Students
This chapter offers strategies for creating support resources for students who face nonacademic barriers such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, lack of transportation and dependable childcare, and the need for mental health care and illness. These strategies should be viewed as ideas to help retain students and create lasting partnerships between rural community colleges and community organizations.
West, Charlotte. “A Surprising Reason Keeping Students from Finishing College: A Lack of Transportation.” Divided We Learn/The Hechinger Report. 10 December 2021.
Report available for free download: https://hechingerreport.org/a-surprising-reason-keeping-students-from-finishing-college-a-lack-of-transportation/
Transportation can account for almost 20 percent of the cost of college for commuters, according to the College Board; 87 percent of all first-year students live off campus, the nonprofit Higher Learning Advocates estimates. Community college students will spend an average of $1,840 on transportation during the 2021-22 school year — more than their counterparts at public and private four-year colleges — the College Board reports.
There are four ways transportation poses barriers for students: because of the cost, because stops or stations aren’t close enough to where they live or work, because available routes and times don’t sync with college schedules and because it’s unreliable, one study found.
Some suggestions for public transportation & student transit:
- Reduced fare transit passes
- City sponsored free unlimited bus and train rides for community college students
- Lyft/Uber gift cards
Some suggestions for rural area student transit:
- College provides own vans
- Emergency grants for car repair, new tires, or rentals