Join the #RealCollegeCalifornia Coalition to Support Your Students' Basic Needs

By Paula Umaña
Director of Community Impact at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice

Thursday, September 17, 2020

#RealCollegeCalifornia was launched in 2019 when the Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges’ Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce sought support from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Their shared vision: To learn from the latest scientific evidence to advance the institutional effectiveness of basic needs accessibility work. By mid-2019, the #RealCollegeCalifornia Coalition was born. While the current pandemic was not on the horizon, there has been a clear and present basic needs crisis affecting students for some time now. Beginning to address that crisis helped leaders prepare for the additional challenges they were soon to face with COVID-19. 

During the 2019-2020 academic year, the inaugural cohort of the #RealCollegeCalifornia Coalition, comprised of fourteen colleges, began working on evidence-based approaches to enhance their basic needs support services. The work included strategizing on improving financial aid practices, identifying new funding opportunities, and troubleshooting low programmatic utilization rates.  

When the pandemic began, the Coalition worked with the Hope Center to focus on quickly mobilizing to address widespread basic needs, while also leading with empathy and understanding for those who needed assistance. For example, Imperial Valley College’s Basic Needs Team, along with student volunteers, transformed their IVC Kitchen traditional food distribution initiative into a contact-free, accessible, drive-thru operation, including a food delivery system for students with transportation barriers. San Jose City College revised its emergency aid application to make it more accessible for students and gain insight into thinking about the CARES funds disbursement more strategically.

The #RealCollegeCalifornia Coalition is now entering into its second year. Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, the Hope Center’s Founding Director, recently said “The last few months have revealed the importance of engaging in practices centering students as humans first. Now more than ever, we must partner to ensure your institution can address their basic needs, keeping them enrolled and on track to complete.” The Hope Center supports Coalition members in several capacities. Benefits of coalition membership include:

  • Engagement with the latest state of the art practices for advancing student basic needs support
  • Use of the latest science, integrated with hands-on guidance, to inform policy implementation 
  • Collaboration with building institutions’ internal capacity to support students 
  • Access to programming, tools, and asynchronous learning platforms                                                                 

The Community College League of California is a critical partner in this effort. Please consider enrolling your college as a member or renewing your membership for the 2020-2021 academic year. For more information on how to become a member and to submit an application for membership visit the League’s website here. Colleges are encouraged to submit applications by September 30th. Additionally, you can learn more about our work here. Together, we can support #RealCollege students all across California. 

Paula Umaña is the Director of Community Impact at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. She can be reached at