Home to nearly three million postsecondary students and some of the highest cost of living cities in the nation, California is uniquely positioned to tackle the basic needs crisis impacting college students. Recent studies have shown that 35% of postsecondary students in California are housing insecure, while 50% of all community college students in California experience food insecurity. To help California’s students persist and graduate, we are pleased to award Michelson Spark Grants to three organizations that are addressing student basic needs head on. Please join us in welcoming them.

Food Research & Action Center

Many students depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to mitigate food insecurity while juggling the expenses of college, which has become even more essential as inflation continues to rise. The federal government, however, may limit the number of students who are eligible for SNAP if it fails to extend and improve on the temporary expansion of college student access instituted during the pandemic. Recognizing the vital need for students with low incomes and first-generation students to access SNAP, the Food Research & Action Center will educate and inform institutional, state, and federal leaders on the importance of SNAP and how it helps students meet their basic needs.

Public Advocates, Inc.

In terms of the grant aid provided to students, California ranks among the top ten states. However, non-tuition costs are creating an affordability crisis that continues to make the college dream unattainable for many low-income and immigrant/BIPOC students. One of the greatest contributing factors? The cost of housing. Public Advocates, Inc. seeks to address this by developing student-informed efforts to address housing insecurity. To do so, they will build student partnerships, monitor and analyze state investments in affordable housing for students, identify the impact of housing security on low-income and BIPOC students, and develop a robust awareness campaign while ensuring  investments truly provide equitable access to housing. 

Young Invincibles 

With the ultimate goal of seeing the basic needs mandate extended to four-year California public university systems, Young Invincibles will implement a series of representative surveys of community college students in Los Angeles County and beyond. Through the surveys, they will analyze whether or not students are familiar with existing services, if they’ve used the services, and more. The research will then be used to better inform a strategy that could support up to 772,128 students in 32 campuses across California.

“We look forward to working with such an amazing cohort of organizations who are at the forefront of tackling basic needs insecurity,” said Miguel Leon, Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives. “The work that they’ll spearhead will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on California’s college students.”

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.

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