College affordability directly impacts completion rates. Central to the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s Student Basic Needs initiative is ensuring the true cost of college is understood and addressed through permanent funding streams. 

A true champion of Student Basic Needs, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), has put college affordability challenges on the map, turning long-held assumptions regarding college costs on their heads and driving student-centered reform. TICAS’s research documents how affordability challenges in California translate into lower completion rates and greater student debt for low-income students and students of color. The data has been used to build a consensus among stakeholders that–despite the strengths of California’s higher education system–addressing the full costs of college is an essential equity issue. 

In the past year, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing affordability challenges faced by students throughout California, disproportionately impacting low-income and underrepresented students. Students who have long struggled to cover college costs now also face depressed employment opportunities, and many students have lost their jobs or experienced reduced hours. At the same time, the pandemic has resulted in additional expenses and challenges for students who must navigate online learning with reduced access to student services such as libraries, computer labs, and in-person consultations with financial aid counselors.

Recognizing the importance of TICAS’ work and mission, Michelson 20MM has awarded a Spark Grant to TICAS that will support efforts to educate changemakers about student basic needs issues and solutions. TICAS will also increase the collective understanding of the real cost of college, which includes non-tuition expenses students incur.

Over the coming months, TICAS will survey California college students to better understand their experiences and translate their lessons learned into actionable solutions. The results from the survey will inform a detailed picture of the financial and personal challenges that college students are facing during COVID-19. We are looking forward to sharing the results and path forward later this year.

To learn more about the Student Basic Needs crisis, we invite you to visit our YouTube channel, which features a webinar with the nation’s leading experts on the subject. 

Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Learn more at