Three Evaluations of Supports for Food and Housing at Community Colleges

Posted by University of Wisconsin on September 25, 2017

Addressing Basic Needs Security in Higher Education: An Introduction to Three Evaluations of Supports for Food and Housing at Community Colleges

There is a new economics of college in America. At a time when more people than ever before are turning to college in search of a decent life marked by economic stability, college completion rates in the United States are stagnant. This is especially true at the public colleges and universities where most students enroll. Even community colleges, long positioned as the most accessible and affordable points of entry to higher education, are increasingly out of reach. The federal Pell Grant, which once covered the full cost of attending community college, now covers about 60%. The remaining balance is high, especially compared with the discretionary income of today’s community college students.

Increased enrollment of lower and moderate income students coupled with inadequate employment opportunities and high college prices mean that making ends meet while attending college can be very difficult. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that a previously unnoticed challenge has emerged: basic needs insecurity. According to a recent report by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, over half (56%) of students at 70 community colleges across the nation are food insecure, experiencing reductions in the quality or quantity of their diet. Even more students report that they are worried about their food supply. Similarly, half of community college students are insecure in their living arrangements as indicated by housing unaffordability and instability (35%), or outright homelessness (14%). On March 20, 2017 the United States Government Accountability Office announced that it would undertake the first-ever federal review of food insecurity in higher education, a clear indication that this challenge deserves greater attention.

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