Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Basic Needs Report Identifies Continued Lack of Food and Housing Security Among California Community College Students

Two of every three California community college students face at least one basic needs insecurity, including lack of food and housing, according to the Real College California: Basic Needs Among California Community Colleges report. More than 66,000 students from 88 California Community Colleges (CCC) participated in the study.

The research project, a collaboration between the CEO Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce and the RP Group, identified significant gaps in students’ access to and affordability of basic needs.

  • Half of the student respondents worried that their food would run out before they could afford to buy more, and one in three students skipped meals or ate less than they needed because they did not have enough money for food.

  • Sixty percent of respondents are housing insecure, with concerns about increased rent, mortgage, and utility rates making it difficult to pay the total living expenses.

However, the study also found positive gains in support for community college students:

  • Food insecurity rates have declined slightly since 2019, with reductions likely related to the concentrated efforts by colleges to tackle food insecurity through campus food pantries, food distribution days, and other direct-support services.

  • Students with food insecurity are twice as likely to receive CalFresh monthly food benefits as pre-pandemic, which may be attributed to colleges’ increasing awareness of available resources and hands-on application assistance.

Read the Real College California: Basic Needs Among California Community Colleges report. 

"As stewards of California's community college system, it's both our duty and privilege to address the stark realities faced by our students: two out of every three are grappling with basic needs insecurities, including food and housing,” said Tammeil Gilkerson, taskforce co-chair and president, Evergreen Community College. “These challenges are not just statistics; they are the lived experiences of our students."

Taskforce co-chair Tammeil Gilkerson and RP Group researchers Katie Brohawn and Alyssa Nguyen, will present the findings in a webinar scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 12-1 p.m. Register for the webinar.

The CEO Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce of the Community College League of California (CCLC) identified opportunities for statewide policy leaders, college and district administrators, and faculty and staff to address food and housing insecurity. In addition to increased state investment in access and affordability programs, the Taskforce recommends efforts focusing on disproportionately affected groups and broader partnerships that leverage local and statewide resources.

“This survey tells us that students continue to struggle with food insecurity as well as stable, affordable housing,” said Andra Hoffman, trustee for the Los Angeles Community College District and president, California Community College Trustees (CCCT) Board of Directors. “We should be truly concerned when students are saying that they skip meals or ate less than they needed because they simply could not afford food. As California Community College system leaders, we can spotlight these voids. But more importantly, we can ensure that our districts, colleges, and communities take action to prevent them.”

More broadly, the taskforce calls for equitable reform of federal and state financial aid programs that cover the cost of college attendance, not just tuition, and the infrastructure for colleges to administer the programs.

Since its inception in 2018, the taskforce has published studies addressing food insecurity, housing and transportation affordability, and financial aid infrastructure shortfalls. The reports illustrate the gaps and provide specific and actionable policy recommendations.  

“The student-centered work of the taskforce identifies, documents, and demonstrates the need for policymakers to address more effectively the food and housing insecurities so prevalent among CCC students,” said Larry Galizio, president and CEO of the Community College League of California. “The League is grateful for the ongoing commitment and dedication of our CEOs and trustees in confronting these urgent issues at CCC campuses statewide.”

The report cautions that the lack of stability in accessing food, housing, and other critical resources impedes students’ ability to succeed in an academic setting.

"While we take heart in the progress made in tackling food insecurity, the rising tide of homelessness and persistent housing insecurity reminds us of the urgency of our mission,” said Gilkerson. “Our commitment to equity is unwavering, as these insecurities disproportionately affect marginalized groups. Students struggling to meet their basic needs face formidable barriers to achievement, and we are determined to find equitable solutions and drive meaningful change."

About the CEO Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce:

Established in the spring 2018 by the Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges (CEOCCC), the Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce provides system-wide recommendations to address the prevalence of food and housing and the lack of affordable access experienced by our students. The Taskforce aims to proactively engage in discussions and recommend interventions and solutions based on research and input from leading scholars, practitioners, and students regarding housing and hunger challenges.

As part of this work, the taskforce created the Real College California Coalition in 2019 to provide the latest evidence, integrated with hands-on guidance to inform implementation and help members develop a cutting-edge mindset to increase their institutional effectiveness and strengthen California’s ecosystems to support students’ basic needs and promote college completion.

About the Community College League of California:

The Community College League of California (League) is an independent, nonprofit public benefit corporation with a voluntary membership of the 73 community college districts in California. As the professional membership association of the California Community College districts, the League empowers California Community Colleges to transform the lives of our diverse students and strengthen communities statewide through advocacy, leadership development, district services, coalition building, and policy advancement. The vision of the League is California Community Colleges as the global model for community-based public higher education with an unparalleled commitment to access, equity, and achievement.