As the cost of college education and living expenses continue to rise, college students are increasingly confronted with daunting choices: paying for tuition or covering their essential needs like food and housing. Shedding light on these challenges, the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges (The RP Group) and the CEO Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce of the Community College League of California (CCLC) published a report titled “Real College California: Basic Needs Among California Community College Students.” This report outlines key insights in food and housing insecurity amongst a surveyed sample of 66,000 California community college (CCC) students across 88 campuses.
The survey findings reveal a startling reality: two out of every three CCC students grapple with at least one basic needs insecurity. Among these students, nearly half face food insecurity, worrying about running out of food before they can afford more. One-third of students resorted to eating less or skipping meals to stretch their limited resources until they could purchase more food. Furthermore, approximately three out of five students reported experiencing housing insecurity, with nearly a quarter of them facing homelessness. While there has been a slight decrease in food insecurity since 2019, primarily due to colleges’ increased efforts to provide and educate students on resources, housing insecurity rates remain comparable and homelessness rates have risen.
Demographic factors such as race/ethnicity, disability, and veteran status significantly influence one’s likelihood of living with insecurity. African American/Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native students, LGBTQ+ students (particularly transgender students), individuals with disabilities, foster youth, military veterans, single parents, and individuals with criminal convictions all experience basic needs insecurities at higher rates than their peers.
These compounding stressors can also negatively impact academic performance, as students reporting lower grades also experience greater rates of basic need insecurity. This underscores how insecurity can hinder a student’s ability to learn and succeed. The insights provided in the report serve as a valuable starting point for colleges to take action by implementing appropriate measures to support students, enabling them to focus on their studies without the burden of food or housing insecurity. Collaboration with state, local, and community-based organizations is crucial to raise awareness among college employees and students about available services, advocate for increased investment and initiative implementation, and eliminate barriers to access and eligibility.
The Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) is one such organization dedicated to supporting CCC students through basic needs programs. Initiatives such as our CalFresh Outreach Project aim to boost CalFresh utilization amongst food-insecure students across the state. Additionally, our Community College Student Ambassador Program empowers students to students serve as on-campus advocates, educating their peers about basic need programs and resources. FoundationCCC’s full list of equity initiatives can be viewed here.
CollegeBuys strives to enhance student success by partnering with providers that offer essential services, such as Care Solace and TimelyCare for student telehealth. We’re also continuing to explore and expand our offerings into other crucial basic needs fields like food services to ensure that healthy meals remain affordable and accessible on campus. Through the CollegeBuys’ E-Store, we’re able to provide deep discounts on technology, hardware and software, including laptops, CalConnects mobile hotspots, and programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud where students are able to save up to 85% on their technology needs for completing coursework. For more information on our institutional partnerships, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about our retail offerings, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Ensuring student success is paramount for the future of our communities. We must persistently strive to implement equity-focused solutions to bridge opportunity disparities and address issues related to student housing and food access within higher education institutions. FoundationCCC and CollegeBuys steadfastly stand as allies in this mission and are fully committed to supporting the community college system in its pursuit of bringing about meaningful change.