New Research Center Takes Aim at Equity in Higher Ed

Sep 09, 2021

A new multidisciplinary research center at Humboldt State University has been established to eliminate barriers to access and opportunities in higher education across California.

The Center for Equity in Higher Education (CEHE) will conduct research to reduce equity gaps in higher education and ensure that basic needs, such as food and housing, don’t stand between any student and a college degree.

The CEHE is made possible by $453,400 in combined seed funding from the California State University Chancellor’s Office to launch and staff the center. The financial investment is a clear sign of the University’s commitment to responding to widespread basic needs insecurity among students. The CEHE defines basic needs as the conditions necessary to survive and thrive, which includes safe and affordable housing, access to nutritious food and clean water, transportation, childcare, mental health resources, and more.

HSU’s Professor of Social Work Jennifer Maguire is a key architect behind the CEHE. Along with Social Work Professor Rashida Crutchfield at CSU Long Beach, Maguire found that 42 percent of CSU students experienced food insecurity while 11 percent reported experiencing homelessness at one time in a groundbreaking 2018 survey.

Maguire’s research was a major finding in the CSU’s three-year Basic Needs Initiative, a study that investigated how students struggle to meet basic needs across the 23-campus system. The result of the Basic Needs Initiative was a $15 million windfall from the state budget for the CSU to address food and housing insecurity.

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“Our research found that unmet basic needs lowered students’ GPAs and generally contributed to problems with retention and graduation,” says Maguire. “Race, socio-economic status, and other social indicators play a highly determinative role in who goes to college and graduates, and who doesn’t.”

The CEHE at HSU will operate in tandem with a dual organization at CSU Long Beach. Together, the research centers will promote equity and basic needs research throughout the state. Each CEHE will focus on specific rural and urban issues, respective to northern and southern California, while drawing from one another’s resources and data.

“Through the CEHE, our faculty and students will continue building on our current research on basic needs and help advance higher education policy around economic, food, and housing justice for students,” says Dean Shawna Young of HSU’s College of Professional Studies. “No student should have to sacrifice their health, wellbeing, or financial stability to pursue a college education.

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Note: This story was originally published on July 9, 2021.