Students who struggle with meeting basic needs like food, housing, and utilities are vulnerable to enrollment disruptions regardless of their academic ability or potential. Unfortunately, research is documenting an alarming number of students experiencing threats to their basic needs. Schools that address their students’ challenges with the indirect costs of college have seen improved student performance outcomes.
- Respondents at 2-year and 4-year institutions have similar levels of food insecurity. (Q77-82)
- More than half of respondents at 2-year and 4-year institutions showed signs of either low food security or very low food security.
- Many students are struggling to maintain secure housing. (Q83-88)
- Nearly half of respondents at 2-year institutions (49 percent) – and 42 percent of respondents at 4-year institutions – showed signs of being housing insecure.
- Homelessness is an issue that affects a sizeable portion of college students. (Q89-98)
- A noteworthy percentage of respondents at 2-year (15 percent) and 4-year (13 percent) institutions report homelessness.
Q77-82: USDA Food Security Scale (30-Day)
Q83-88: Housing Security Scale
Q89-98: Homelessness Scale
Q54-58: Percent of respondents who indicated use of public assistance, by assistance type
Eligible low-income students face resource challenges that can be partially addressed through access to public benefits. Many campuses are connecting students to these public benefits, and some colleges even staff full-time social workers to support students facing resource scarcity.5
Institutions are building crisis support teams to case manage students experiencing difficulty securing basic needs. This model of case management has been successful in supporting students facing mental health crises on campuses for decades and is now being applied to students facing basic needs and financial crises.
Many institutions now provide emergency support services for students such as food pantries, temporary housing, and/or emergency funding. Access to these services are often housed in a central resource center to provide a single location for all students seeking support.17
Institutions are reconsidering their policies regarding student housing availability to ensure students who are housing insecure or homeless aren’t affected during holidays or breaks.18
Some campuses ensure a low-price and healthy food option at all campus dining areas. Some institutions work with cafeteria vendors to offer a basic meal at wholesale, rather than retail prices, while others provide food vouchers for certain students.21
Institutions are addressing 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.5, 19, 20