Respondents at two-year and four-year institutions have similar levels of food insecurity. (Q89-94)
- Alarmingly, nearly half of respondents at two-year and four-year institutions showed signs of either low food security or very low food security.
- Concerns related to food affordability and sufficiency were common. Nearly half of four and two-year respondents (46 and 49 percent, respectively) indicated they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals, while 33 to 34 percent ate less than they felt they should.
Many students are struggling to maintain secure housing. (Q95-100)
- Nearly half of respondents at two-year institutions (48 percent)—and 42 percent of respondents at four-year institutions—showed signs of being housing insecure.
Homelessness is an issue that affects a sizeable portion of college students. (Q101-110)
- More than one in ten respondents at two-year (16 percent) and four-year (15 percent) institutions reported experiencing homelessness.
- The most common expression of homelessness occurred when students temporarily stayed with a relative or friend, or couch surfed while looking for housing.
Q89-94: USDA Food Security Scale (30-Day)
Q90: I couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals. (in the last 30 days)
Q93: In the last 30 days, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?
Q101-110: Homelessness Scale
Overall Basic Needs Security*
*Provides a measurement of students experiencing one or more basic needs insecurities
Students need timely and holistic institutional support when they are in financial crisis.
Students in financial crisis will often drop out of college unless swift, holistic institutional support is provided.
Build on-campus crisis-support teams to provide case management for students having trouble with their basic needs. An excellent example of this is the S.H.A.R.E. Center at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, which provides students with a personalized assessment and customized plan to meet their academic, financial, and social needs. Services offered to students include academic peer coaching, career services, counseling services, financial wellness resources, sexual and reproductive health services, community resources, and a community garden.46
Students need safe, reliable housing before they can reach their full academic potential.
Many students have low housing security, even homelessness. The need to secure housing can conflict with their academic responsibilities.
Institutions can address housing insecurity and homelessness by partnering with local housing authorities to offer housing vouchers; working with community organizations to build housing; and advocating for state programs supporting these vulnerable students. The College Housing Assistance Program, or CHAP, in Tacoma, Washington, is one example of a community college partnering with a local housing authority. In this student-centric program—named one of the top 25 most innovative governmental initiatives in 2018—the Tahoma Housing Authority (THA) provides short- and long-term rental assistance and/or apartments to nearly 300 housing insecure or homeless students enrolled at the local community college or university.47
Students with basic needs insecurity can be difficult to spot, but they need to be seen by their institution.
Few college administrators are trained to identify the signs of food and housing insecurity. Unseen by their institution, these students’ needs can go unmet, making student success more difficult.
Offer professional development for faculty and staff to help them recognize signs of basic needs insecurity and learn how to direct students to appropriate support services on campus.48