New #RealCollege survey finds widespread basic needs insecurity

According to the latest #RealCollege report by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, food and housing insecurity is highly prevalent at colleges and universities across America. Seven out of every 10 students at two-year colleges and six out of every 10 students at four-year institutions said that they faced some form of basic needs insecurity in the last year, Education Dive reports.

Some student populations especially vulnerable

As the country’s “largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students,” the #RealCollege report reflects responses gathered from nearly 86,000 students in the fall of 2018. Among those respondents, 45 percent had been food-insecure in the prior 30 days, 56 percent were housing-insecure in the prior year, and 17 percent were homeless in the prior year. The report also indicates that African American, LGBTQ, and veteran student communities are at increased risk of food and housing insecurity, as are independent students who cannot rely on family for help.

“Food and housing insecurity undermine academic success,” the report’s authors write, noting their “strong, statistically significant relationship with college completion rates, persistence, and credit attainment.” Students who face basic needs insecurity are also more likely to report “poor physical health, symptoms of depression, and higher perceived stress.”

Taking action on campus

Saying that “the scope of the problem described [in the report] is substantial and should be cause for a systemic response,” the report authors call on colleges and universities to take five key action steps to address basic needs insecurity. Specifically, they recommend:

  • Appointing a director responsible for student wellness and basic needs and providing a single point of contact for homeless students.
  • Advancing cultural changes on campus to support a “culture of caring.”
  • Proactively providing students with support—for instance housing vouchers or hunger-prevention initiatives—via community and private sector partnerships.
  • Developing and expanding emergency aid programs that provide rapid cash assistance.
  • Making basic needs central in government relations work.
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