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By Miguel Leon

Prior to COVID-19, the student basic needs crisis in the United States had reached unprecedented levels. A survey conducted by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 39% of students were food insecure, 46% were housing insecure, and 17% experienced homelessness. A survey by the California Student Aid Commission demonstrated that as a result of the pandemic, seven in 10 students (71%) had lost some or all of their income; nearly half (46%) had their living arrangements affected, and a quarter (24%) dropped courses during the spring college term. 

This year, California took a major step toward helping students meet their basic needs. By passing Assembly Bill 132, the postsecondary education trailer bill based on Assembly Bill 775 (Berman-24), the state secured a $30 million ongoing investment in the Budget Act of 2021 to support basic needs centers. To ensure that the deployment of these dollars is student centered, and implement a values-based approach, including principles of belonging, equity, and justice, the Michelson 20MM Foundation awarded a Spark Grant to Young Invincibles (YI), who will spearhead a student-led research project on the effective implementation of California’s recent investment.

High Expectations

By July 1, 2022, each community college campus in California is required to establish a basic needs center and hire a basic needs coordinator, providing a single point of contact for students to access basic needs services, such as CalFresh and other programs. The basic needs coordinator will act as a broker in linking students to on- and off-campus housing, food, mental health, and other basic needs services and resources. Other requirements include developing and distributing student basic needs informational materials  to students, streamlining the application and intake process, developing and implementing a plan to identify and provide outreach to students, and providing  a student basic needs tab that is clearly visible and easily accessible from a drop-down menu on the home page of their campus website. With approximately 56% of California Community Colleges just now receiving funding to establish student basic needs centers, meeting the July 2022 deadline will require a high degree of accountability. 

Student-Led Accountability

Through its Michelson Spark Grant, Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates Program (YAP) and Youth Advisory Board (YAB) will ensure that lessons from campus-based professionals and the voices of students guide how campuses work toward their July 2022 deadline. Young Invincibles will provide outreach and education to community colleges on the expectations and requirements of basic needs centers, ensuring accountability and quality. While instrumental in educating policymakers about the importance of securing this funding, Young Invincibles will now ensure that campuses spend the dollars they receive efficiently. Colleges should be asking:  

  • Have we hired a coordinator?
  • Have we established a basic needs center? 
  • What services and resources does the center offer? 
  • Are other programs offered in the center? 
  • Is the center conveniently located for students? 
  • How many students does the center anticipate serving on a weekly basis? 
  • Is the center and the coordinator’s contact information distributed as part of a class syllabus? 
  • Does the coordinator or the center have a business card or flyer that is distributed to students? 
  • Is our coordinator linking students to on- and off-campus housing, food, mental health, and other basic needs services and resources? 

Young Invincibles will publish a report of its student-led research project that will identify if community colleges are on track to meet their requirements by the July 2022 deadline. 

We look forward to sharing additional blogs spotlighting each of our new Student Basic Needs grantees and the inspiring work they are leading. 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 is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.