The latest report from a CSU basic needs initiative gives campuses and organizations recommendations and best practices for helping students find food and housing security.
The study, co-authored by Humboldt State University Social Work Professor Jennifer Maguire and CSU Long Beach Social Work Professor Rashida Crutchfield, found that a lack of basic needs lowered students’ GPAs and generally contributed to problems with retention and graduation.
The Basic Needs Initiative study, commissioned by the CSU Chancellor’s Office, is the most comprehensive mixed-methods study of university students’ unmet basic needs and their relationship to student success ever completed within a four-year higher education system. The first phase of the study, released in January 2016, was a snapshot of student basic needs. The second phase was a comprehensive study of student basic needs and was released in January 2018.
The latest report, the third phase of the initiative, found that students did not have enough financial resources and had to make compromises that significantly impacted their health and quality of life. Many students were unable to navigate meeting their basic needs without help, and a substantial proportion of students who did not use services. Findings show that students may be deterred from using services because they don’t think they need services, do not know about services, believe they are not “needy” enough to be eligible for services, or faced a cumbersome application and eligibility stipulations.
The report identifies practices and other recommendations to campuses and the CSU that would help students fully utilize basic needs resources. They include:
• Create or sustain single points of contact to coordinate student service provision for unmet basic needs.
• Sustain and evaluate efforts to address food and housing insecurity. Campuses must continue to institutionalize offerings of emergency food and housing and CalFresh application assistance on campus.
• Increase awareness, access, and use of on-campus resources for students, specifically for student groups who are disproportionately experiencing the highest levels of basic needs insecurity. Primarily, students of color were most likely to access services such as campus food pantries and CalFresh application assistance; however, they were also most likely to report experiencing barriers to services.
• Train faculty and staff to identify, respond, and refer students to appropriate points of contact. Findings indicated that many students disclosed their situation to faculty when their grades or attendance began to decline. Students who were received with empathy, understanding, and appropriate direction to support reported that this encouraged retention.
• Institutionalize connectivity across campus services. Students reported using campus health centers and counseling and psychological services to access services and to be referred for basic needs support.
• Promote continued sharing of information across campuses. Continuing to share discoveries and opportunities across campuses is critical for increasing the collective impact of this work.
• Advocate to address barriers to off-campus public social services for higher education students. The CSU can act as a convener between higher education and public social services to remove institutional and policy barriers. Coordinated strategic planning is needed between the CSU and California social services about college student eligibility criteria for public benefits and outreach efforts are needed to inform students about the application process and assist them in the application. Advocacy for affordable off-campus housing appropriate for college students is needed.
In addition to the report, Maguire, Crutchfield and Ronald E. Hallett recently published a book aimed at helping educational leaders understand and work to end housing insecurity.
Addressing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education, published in June, provides research-based, practical guidance to evaluate these issues within their local context, create and implement a plan of action, and sustain those efforts over time. It includes real-life examples of student experiences as well as successful efforts by universities and social service providers.
More information about how HSU is addressing basic needs:
The Hub Of HSU Student Food Programs
The Hearst Foundations Give HSU $100k For Student Basic Needs
Building A Bridge Between Landlords And Student Tenants
About the Basic Needs Initiative
Critical to student success at the CSU, the Basic Needs Initiative takes a holistic look at students’ well-being inside and outside the classroom, from housing and food security to mental health. We’re working together to find better ways support our students on their path to graduation.